Background: Legal medical marijuana has been commercially available on a widespread basis in Colorado since mid-2009; however, there is a dearth of information about the impact of marijuana commercialization on impaired driving. This study examined if the proportions of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were marijuana-positive and alcohol-impaired, respectively, have changed in Colorado before and after mid-2009 and then compared changes in Colorado with 34 non-medical marijuana states (NMMS).
Methods: Thirty-six 6-month intervals (1994-2011) from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System were used to examine temporal changes in the proportions of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were alcohol-impaired (≥0.08 g/dl) and marijuana-positive, respectively. The pre-commercial marijuana time period in Colorado was defined as 1994-June 2009 while July 2009-2011 represented the post-commercialization period.
Results: In Colorado, since mid-2009 when medical marijuana became commercially available and prevalent, the trend became positive in the proportion of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were marijuana-positive (change in trend, 2.16 (0.45), p<0.0001); in contrast, no significant changes were seen in NMMS. For both Colorado and NMMS, no significant changes were seen in the proportion of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were alcohol-impaired.
Conclusions: Prevention efforts and policy changes in Colorado are needed to address this concerning trend in marijuana-positive drivers. In addition, education on the risks of marijuana-positive driving needs to be implemented.
Keywords: Alcohol-impaired driving; Drugged driving; Marijuana-positive driving; Medical marijuana; Traffic fatalities.
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