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Study: Crash numbers higher in states with recreational marijuana use

Jeff Himler
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Western states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use have seen crash numbers outpace wrecks in neighboring states that lack similar legislation, according to an insurance industry study released Thursday .

Citing research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute, the study indicates crashes are up by as much as 6 percent in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington compared to adjacent states.

HLDI analysts estimate the frequency of collision insurance claims rose a combined 6 percent following the start of retail sales of recreational marijuana in the four mentioned states – in comparison with claims in Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

A separate IIHS study looked at police-reported crashes from 2012 through 2016 in Colorado, Oregon and Washington. It found that the three states combined saw a 5.2 percent increase in the rate of crashes per million vehicle registrations, compared with the rate in neighboring states that didn’t legalize marijuana.

The new research “indicates that legalizing marijuana for all uses is having an impact on the safety of our roads,” David Harkey, president of IIHS and HLDI, said in a press release. “States exploring legalizing marijuana should consider the highway safety impact.”

Marijuana’s role in crashes isn’t as clear as the link between alcohol and crashes. the report notes. Many states don’t include consistent information on driver drug use in crash reports, and policies and procedures for drug testing are inconsistent.

Retail sales of recreational marijuana began in January 2014 in Colorado and in July 2014 in Washington. Sales began in October 2015 in Oregon and in July 2017 in Nevada.

Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and the District of Columbia also allow recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 or older.

Recreational use legislation is pending in New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

A bill introduced in the Pennsylvania House by Democrat Jake Wheatley, of Pittsburgh’s Hill District, would legalize recreational marijuana for those over 21 and would reverse some related penalties – releasing people jailed on marijuana charges, expunging criminal records related to the drug and reinstating driver’s licenses that were revoked or suspended in relation to marijuana.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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