Food for thought as Missouri contemplates weed legalization

Last year, Missouri voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana. One day, we might well join other states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Those states allow adults to possess and consume – and in some cases grow – small amounts of cannabis for their personal use.

While proponents of weed legalization say that it can generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues, there’s another reality as well: motor vehicle crashes are on the rise in those states. According to a news source, traffic wrecks are up as much as six percent in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Nevada compared to neighboring states that have not legalized cannabis for recreational use.

According to a recent news article, the analysis is based on car crash date in those states from January of 2012 through October of 2017.

David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute, cautions Missouri and other states flirting with legalization to proceed slowly. “States exploring legalizing marijuana should consider this effect on highway safety,” Harkey said.

Another example of the impact on traffic safety comes from Colorado, the state that has led the way on legalization. The percentage of all traffic fatalities in which a driver tests positive for a cannabinoid (marijuana and weed-based consumables) nearly doubled from 2013 to 2017, says the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice says. The share of weed-related traffic fatalities is now 21 percent of all motor vehicle deaths there.

These figures give Missouri voters and legislators a lot to think about in coming days as we all ponder appropriate changes to our laws.