Fatal crashes in the 5 years after recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington

Accid Anal Prev. 2019 Nov:132:105284. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2019.105284. Epub 2019 Sep 10.


Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, but the effects of legalization on motor vehicle crashes remains unknown. Using Fatality Analysis Reporting System data, we performed difference-in-differences (DD) analyses comparing changes in fatal crash rates in Washington, Colorado and nine control states with stable anti-marijuana laws or medical marijuana laws over the five years before and after recreational marijuana legalization. In separate analyses, we evaluated fatal crash rates before and after commercial marijuana dispensaries began operating in 2014. In the five years after legalization, fatal crash rates increased more in Colorado and Washington than would be expected had they continued to parallel crash rates in the control states (+1.2 crashes/billion vehicle miles traveled, CI: -0.6 to 2.1, p = 0.087), but not significantly so. The effect was more pronounced and statistically significant after the opening of commercial dispensaries (+1.8 crashes/billion vehicle miles traveled, CI: +0.4 to +3.7, p = 0.020). These data provide evidence of the need for policy strategies to mitigate increasing crash risks as more states legalize recreational marijuana.

Keywords: Accidents; Drug; Legislation; Marijuana smoking/epidemiology; Traffic.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality*
  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Controlled Before-After Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Use / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Washington / epidemiology