Will Legalization Increase the Number of Marijuana Related Traffic Deaths?

April 14, 2019 by Barry Zlotowicz Law Firms 

Will Legalization Increase the Number of Marijuana Related Traffic Deaths?

A study by a marijuana consulting firm concluded that legalization of Will Legalization Increase the Number of Marijuana Related Traffic Deathsmarijuana in Illinois could create a market of between $1.69 and $2.58 billion per year. But will legalization increase the number of marijuana related traffic deaths?

The massive tax revenue from such a market, not to mention the potential boost to local economies, has proponents of legalization pushing hard for legalization. State Senator Heather Steans recently introduced SB 7, which would permit recreational marijuana use in Illinois for those over 21 years of age.

The Illinois Senate Executive Committee voted 12-4 in favor of SB 7 on April 3, 2019. As it stands now the bill is nothing more than a “shell bill”, a bill that can receive significant amendments in the future. The Committee’s passage of a bill lacking in detail is perhaps evidence of the growing support in favor of legalization. This is not surprising, given that approximately two-thirds of Illinois voters are in favor of legalization.

Will Legalization Increase the Number of Marijuana Related Traffic Deaths?

Opponents of recreational marijuana use in Illinois argue that those in favor of legalization are ignoring significant long-term consequences. A recent report issued by the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area points out that following legalization in Colorado and California, the number of marijuana related traffic deaths increased substantially.

Moreover, in 2016, fifty-one percent of drug related fatal crashes in Iowa involved marijuana use versus forty-one percent nationwide. The study also found that the costs of legalization would outweigh potential tax revenue by more than four times (i.e., for every $1 in tax revenue there would be $4.50 in costs).

An increase in the number of marijuana related traffic deaths is not at all surprising given research into the effects that marijuana use has on driving. The National Institute on Drug Abuse highlights research that shows marijuana use:

  • Impairs judgment
  • Motor coordination and
  • Reaction time

These studies have found a direct relationship between THC blood levels and diminished driving ability.  Perhaps most troubling among the research are the findings that marijuana is the illicit drug most often found in the blood of drivers involved in car accidents, including marijuana related traffic deaths.

Proponents of recreational marijuana use in Illinois have argued that the correlation between recreational use and marijuana related traffic deaths is a function of marijuana remaining in the blood for up to several weeks after use.

In other words, the drivers in fatal car accidents may not have been under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident. Moreover, some studies have also found that those drivers with marijuana in their blood were more likely to be under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.

The correlation between drunk driving and car accidents is essentially common knowledge at this point. Given that studies have found that marijuana use has similar effects on driving ability, it is debatable whether legalization of marijuana is a good idea.

It remains to be seen whether SB 7 or similar legislation legalizing recreational marijuana use in Illinois will be passed. The decision will be one of a cost benefit analysis – potential tax revenue and widespread public approval versus the safety of our roadways.

We have been involved in cases involving the use of drugs and alcohol. If you or a loved one was involved in a marijuana-related car accident, contact us today by calling 1-847-305-4105.


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