Cannabis studies are being conducted by all sorts of groups for all different reasons, however they all seem to contradict one another and use insufficient data. In particular, a study done by the HLDI funded by insurance companies in Colorado suggests that marijuana legalization has increased the amount of driving accidents. Do you question any study on legal marijuana use when it is still in its infancy and there is no real benchmark?
Everyone wants to know how legalization is going in Colorado.
Both inside and outside the state, people are fixated on gleaning what they can from the first few years of retail marijuana sales. And while many will always insist the sky has fallen (pretty sure it hasn’t) and others will only see a 420 paradise (also not seeing it), there’s still a wide swath of reasonable types in the middle who nonetheless form conclusions first and find supporting evidence second.
Problem is, there’s sometimes evidence out there to support different conclusions. Take the question: Has marijuana use among youth gone up or down in the legal era? There are commonly cited studies that “prove” both answers. People pull them out to justify whatever point they’re trying to make.
Now we have another case of conflicting data on our hands, this time in regard to another public safety question: Has marijuana legalization caused more impaired-driving incidents? A new report on the matter from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), funded by insurance companies and associations, analyzed collision claims which those involved in a car crash submit to their auto insurer. Report authors used data from January 2012 through October 2016 to analyze collision claim rates in Colorado, Washington and Oregon (where recreational marijuana is legal) compared with control states chosen for geographic proximity — Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. (Note that Nevada and Montana allow medical marijuana and Wyoming and Utah allow a more limited use of medical marijuana.) Controlling for “differences in the rated driver population, insured vehicle fleet, the mix of urban versus rural exposure, unemployment, weather and seasonality” in unspecified ways, they found that “the legalization of retail sales was associated with a 2.7 percent increase in collision claim frequencies.”
We at CannaBiz are not scientists, but we’re pretty sure we heard somewhere that correlation doesn’t equal causation. Are we high or is there no data or information linking collision claims with marijuana use in this study?
No matter, the study was trotted out in local, state and national media, where journalists slapped on catchy headlines to let people know they’re right to be scared of marijuana. Sigh.
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