Legal Marijuana Fears Are Unfounded, New Data Show

Marijuana opponents have often fixated on two big fears they have about legalization: It will lead to increased use by young people and will cause carnage on highways as more stoned drivers get behind the wheel.

But two new studies released this week undermine both claims.

First, the latest results from the federally-funded National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that while adult marijuana use rose in Colorado in the first two years following the implementation of legal sales, teen cannabis use actually declined.

Legalization proponents have long argued that taking marijuana sales out of the hands of drug dealers and putting them into a controlled, regulated system where licensed retailers are greatly incentivized to ensure their customers are of age would make cannabis harder for young people to get. The new data, first reported by the Washington Post, seem to bear that out.

A separate study, also first reported by the Post, showed that states with medical cannabis laws have lower rates of traffic fatalities than states where marijuana is illegal for any reason.

Medical marijuana laws were associated with immediate reductions in traffic fatalities in those aged 15 to 24 and 25 to 44 years, and with additional yearly gradual reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years, the study in the American Journal of Public Health found. “Dispensaries were also associated with traffic fatality reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years.”

Silvia Martins, the study’s lead author, told the Post that her team “found evidence that states with the marijuana laws in place compared with those which did not, reported, on average, lower rates of drivers endorsing driving after having too many drinks.”

As legalization plays out in Colorado and other states that have already enacted it, and more data is collected showing that it not only creates jobs and generates tax revenue but doesn’t lead to the horrors that opponents have long claimed, it is likely that voters and elected officials in a growing number of other places will move end their own prohibition laws.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

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