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Has recreational marijuana legalization increased car crashes?

The legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes is spreading across the country. Although marijuana is widely legal for medical purposes and used legally and illegally in every state, one leading insurance research group sought to quantify just how much effect legal recreational marijuana had on the number of car crashes.

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) looked at collision claims in the three states where the trend began -- Colorado, Oregon and Washington State compared with surrounding states. The data encompassed 2012 through most of 2016.

Their recently-released results show that insurance claims for crashes increased by 2.7 percent since marijuana could be legally purchased for recreational purposes in those states.

The study controlled for factors such as gender, age and weather conditions. However, one marijuana legalization advocate noted that the states surrounding those three western states (including Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) don't have the dense population centers that the other three states have. He acknowledges, however, that this is a question "that would surely receive more study, and deservedly so."

Alcohol, of course, is known to be a factor in a significant number of crashes. However, thus far, there's no definitive test to determine how much someone is impaired by marijuana at the time of a crash.

Even if you use marijuana legally for medical purposes, as is allowed in Maryland or recreationally in the District of Columbia, it's essential that it's still illegal to drive under the influence of it. If you are charged with DUI because officers suspect that you're impaired by the drug, it's essential to seek experienced legal guidance.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Legalized marijuana blamed for uptick in car crash claims," P. Solomon Banda, Associated Press, June 23, 2017

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