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Legalizing Medical Marijuana Reduces Drunk Driving, New Data Shows

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New data finds a link between states with medical marijuana programs and lower risk of dangerous driving and car accidents. The data belongs to a study in Health Economics that analyzed insurance information and trends from auto companies from 2014 to 2019.

Per Maine Report, Legal Marijuana Is Replacing Black Market Marijuana
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RELATED: Regular Cannabis Users Better Drivers Than Casual Consumers, New Study Explains Why

The study found that auto insurance premiums decreased in states with medical marijuana programs due to cars being involved in fewer accidents on the road.

Per the study, premiums dropped by approximately $22 dollars a year after states enabled their medical marijuana programs. Researchers theorize that this is due to fewer car accidents and drunk driving in these states, with drivers substituting alcohol for cannabis.

“Medical cannabis legalization has reduced auto insurance premiums by $1.5 billion in all states that have currently legalized, with the potential to reduce premiums by an additional $900 million if the remaining states were to legalize,” reads the study.

The results are not wholly understood, but the link between legal cannabis and a reduction in drunk driving matters. While driving while high is potentially dangerous and should be avoided and monitored, the fact that legal marijuana might curb drunk driving is important. Statistics claim that drunk driving account for 10,000 deaths a year, accounting for a little under 30% of traffic fatalities.

Marijuana and alcohol use work differently. Despite the fact that both substances alter people’s perceptions, when people use marijuana they tend to stay at home or go to house parties. Alcohol prompts the opposite behavior, encouraging people to drive to bars and clubs.

RELATED: Here’s How Getting High Affects Your Driving, According To New Study

When it comes to driving while high, the phenomenon is complicated, with the data available showing conflicting evidence. While it’s clear that marijuana affects people’s responses and ability to think clearly, its impact on drivers and car accidents needs more research to be understood.



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Regular Cannabis Users Better Drivers Than Casual Consumers, New Study Explains Why

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More than 40% of U.S. drivers who use both alcohol and marijuana admitted they drive under the influence of one or both of the substances, according to a recent study. However, nearly half of those surveyed said they did not get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

Still, some cannabis consumers claim that driving while high does not affect their ability to operate an automobile despite warnings from law enforcement that the number of fatal car crashes involving cannabis has more than doubled in the past several years. Although, it apparently makes them better drivers.

According to new driving simulator data published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, those who use marijuana regularly drive better compared to occasional users.

“Those with a pattern of occasional use were significantly more likely to experience a lane departure during distraction periods after acute cannabis use relative to baseline, while those with daily use did not exhibit a similar increase,” said researchers from the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Iowa. “Participants with a pattern of daily use decreased their speed, which may be interpreted as a drug effect or as a compensatory strategy.”

As part of a driving simulated performance test, participants used their own cannabis, which contained between 15 and 30% THC.

Interestingly, the new research only confirmed findings from previous studies that proved that cannabis exposure is associated with either partial or even full tolerance in cognitive and psychomotor performance.

“This may indicate that those who use daily may perceive a potential adverse impact of acute cannabis use on driving performance and may attempt to compensate by slowing down to have more time to react to changes in the roadway,” researchers said, adding that more research on the subject is needed.

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Medical Cannabis, Traffic Safety & Lower Insurance Rates

Meanwhile, a team of economists associated with Temple University and the Universities of Arkansas and Eastern Kentucky found that states with legalized medical cannabis enjoyed reduced insurance premiums as well as improved road transport environment.

RELATED: Here’s How Getting High Affects Your Driving, According To New Study

“We estimate that legalizing medical cannabis reduces annual auto insurance premiums by $22 per household, a reduction of 1.7 percent for the average household,” experts wrote in the study. “Extending our results to other states, we find that medical cannabis legalization has reduced auto insurance premiums by $1.5 billion in all states that have currently legalized, with the potential to reduce premiums by an additional $900 million if the remaining states were to legalize.”

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.



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Here’s How Getting High Affects Your Driving, According To New Study

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Cannabis’ effect on drivers is not wholly understood. While THC use impairs drivers, researchers and law enforcers are not clear on the amount of cannabis that needs to be in someone’s system for there to be impairment. They’re also not clear on how long cannabis leaves a person impaired for driving.

A new study narrowed down the time frame of cannabis impairment, discovering that people are usually fit for driving four hours after they consumed cannabis.

RELATED: Study: Consuming CBD-Rich Cannabis Has ‘No Significant Impact’ On Driving

Study Finds CBD Doesn't Impair Driving And THC's Effects Fade Within Hours
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Published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal, the study was conducted by researchers from the University of California. They looked at 191 regular cannabis users and did simulated driving tests on them, finding that cannabis consumption significantly declined their capability to drive.

Participants were split up into two groups: one that ingested a placebo and another that contained cannabis with either 5.9% or 13.4% of THC. Researchers measured impairment at different points of the study.

Broadly, results showed that participants who consumed THC performed lower in their Composite Drive Scores (CDS), which tested them on a variety of skills like following cars at varying speeds, responding to dividing attention tasks, and more.

Results are interesting upon closer look. While all cannabis consumers were reticent to driving right after consuming cannabis, 69% of them said they were ready to drive an hour and a half after consuming cannabis. Their CDS scores were low, showing that even though they thought they were ready to drive, their bodies remained impaired.

“Although users in the THC group felt impaired and were hesitant to drive at 30 minutes, by 1 hour-30 minutes they believed the impairment was wearing off and were more willing to drive. This was despite their performance not significantly improving from the 30 minute point,” said the study’s lead author, Thomas Marcotte.

Lastly, researchers found that at the 4-hour mark there was no difference between the placebo group and the cannabis group.

RELATED: Scientists Develop On-Site Test For Cannabis Use Similar To A Breathalyzer

is new marijuana breathalyzer technology on the way
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Another interesting discovery the study made was the lack of correlation between blood concentrations and driving performance, something that we’ve written about in the past and that’s become the reason why a functioning cannabis breathalyzer will likely never get made. It appears that cannabis is a highly individualized experience; while someone may have high cannabis levels in their blood, they might not be as impaired as someone who has low levels of THC in their bloodstream and perhaps less experience with the drug.

This study provides a deeper understanding of how cannabis works in our systems and how it impairs drivers differently than alcohol, something that’s important to understand as cannabis earns legalization across states.



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Marijuana Breathalyzers Don’t Work, So Says New Study

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Marijuana breathalyzers have been in development for years. These mythical tools could solve one of the main issues associated with the legalization of marijuana: measuring THC impairment in drivers. But a new study reveals that current breathalyzers are nowhere near that goal.

The study, conducted in Australia by researchers at the University of Sydney, found that marijuana breathalyzers were inconsistent in measuring impairment from THC. Researchers analyzed 28 studies on driving performance and concentrations of THC in blood and saliva and found the connection between the two inconsistent.

RELATED: Study: Consuming CBD-Rich Cannabis Has ‘No Significant Impact’ On Driving

is new marijuana breathalyzer technology on the way
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The idea of marijuana breathalyzers is based on alcohol breathalyzers, which are administered on the road and provide an accurate assessment of people’s blood alcohol levels. This has been efficient over the years in providing a relatively accurate take on people’s intoxication levels and how it affects driving skills. This doesn’t appear to be the case with THC.

This new study analyzed a variety of older studies that focused on how THC affected people’s reaction time and divided attention, skills that are necessary for driving safely. While the study found some strong connections between THC levels and impairment in inexperienced cannabis users, once cannabis users were seasoned (using the drug several times a week), these connections disappeared.

RELATED: Scientists Develop On-Site Test For Cannabis Use Similar To A Breathalyzer

“Higher blood THC concentrations were only weakly associated with increased impairment in occasional cannabis users while no significant relationship was detected in regular cannabis users,” said Dr. Danielle McCartney, lead author of the study. “This suggests that blood and oral fluid THC concentrations are relatively poor indicators of cannabis-THC-induced impairment.”

Get Busted Driving With Marijuana And You May Lose Your Vehicle
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While THC intoxication can impair people’s driving skills, it presents itself very differently depending on the person consuming THC. Someone who’s experienced with cannabis might show the same levels of THC in their blood as someone who’s inexperienced with it. These two people will likely have completely different responses to the drug and how impaired they are by it.

RELATED: Driving High On Marijuana Might Not Be As Dangerous As Prescription Drugs

Marijuana breathalyzers were people’s go-to response for solving driving while under the influence of THC. Now, it appears that these devices should measure a different biomarker for success, something that proves not only that someone consumed THC recently, but that they’re impaired by it. While the idea of a device that can measure THC sounds safe enough for providing an accurate assessment of intoxication and for discouraging this type of behavior, marijuana is too complex a drug to be reduced by a number.



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