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New studies show increase in car crashes in states allowing recreational marijuana

Car crashes have risen in states that have legalized marijuana, according to new reports. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

Car crashes are up in states that have legalized marijuana, according to two new studies released Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute.

"Drugged driving is quickly becoming an epidemic as Big Marijuana continues to spread its false promises that pot is safe," Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said in a news release. "These studies prove that is not the case. People are paying with their lives, and it's evident the problem isn't going away."

What did the studies show?

Since the retail sales of marijuana began in Colorado, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon, HLDI researchers estimated that collision claims per insured vehicle went up 6 percent in a combined-state analysis based on data from January 2012 to October 2017.

The data from Colorado, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon was compared to data from Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming where the drug is not allowed.

In a separate study, IIHS compared crashes reported to police before and after retail sales began in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

IIHS estimated that the combined states showed a 5.2 percent increase in the rate of crashes per million vehicle registrations, compared with neighboring states that didn't legalize marijuana sales, according to the report.

"The new IIHS-HLDI research on marijuana and crashes indicates that legalizing marijuana for all uses is having a negative impact on the safety of our roads," IIHS-HLDI President David Harkey said in a release. "States exploring legalizing marijuana should consider this effect on highway safety."

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and it's illegal to drive under the influence of the drug in all 50 states.

But Harkey admitted that the role that marijuana plays in crashes is much more difficult to determine than that of alcohol.

A positive test for THC [the psychoactive component of marijuana] may not necessarily mean the driver was impaired at the time of the crash. THC can remain in a person's bloodstream for weeks after using.

"Despite the difficulty of isolating the specific effects of marijuana impairment on crash risk, the evidence is growing that legalizing its use increases crashes," Harkey says.

What else?

On Wednesday, Canada became the first North American country to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide.

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