Ever since the days of Reefer Madness, prohibitionists have found various ways to provoke fear about cannabis cannabis, from saying that it makes all of its users crazy to claiming that legalization will cause mayhem on our highways. As most of us now know, these “the sky is falling” stories have been debunked one by one, including the prediction of the extreme dangers on our roads. Somewhat surprisingly however, a new report out of the Utah State University’s Center for Growth and Opportunity, authored by economist Benjamin Hanson, found that legalization in Washington State led to a decrease in alcohol-related car crashes in neighboring Idaho.
Marijuana Moment reported:
Two key dates, Hansen noted in his paper, were September 2015 and March 2016: That’s when recreational marijuana sales began in Walla Walla, Washington, and in Huntington, Oregon, respectively. Both are located within driving distance of the Idaho border, thus making it easy for residents to drive across state lines to purchase cannabis. Additionally, the paper states, Idaho law enforcement report “consistent increases in trafficking and seizures following Washington’s and Oregon’s legalizations.”
Hansen confirmed that searches for the term “dispensaries” increased “dramatically” in Idaho after Washington legalized marijuana. “This suggests that interest in marijuana—specifically, marijuana available in Washington and Oregon—increased significantly as stores opened nearby and that the trend break is not due to random chance,” he writes.
The author also found that access to recreational marijuana was associated with a 21 percent decrease in accidents involving alcohol in Idaho counties directly bordering Washington. Counties located one hour away from Washington saw a reduction of 18 percent, while counties three hours away saw a reduction of 10 percent. When the driving distance from Washington was four hours or more, the effect was insignificant, the author writes.
As cannabis moves more and more mainstream, with Michigan just starting regulated sales, it will be interesting to see if these results are replicated across other states. One thing is for certain–Reefer Madness fearmongering gets debunked each and every time and it is time to stop criminalizing patients and responsible adults all across our great nation.