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Are There More Accidents in Colorado After Marijuana Was Legalized?

Posted by Jeremy Rosenthal | Jul 26, 2021 | 0 Comments

Colorado was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana for patients after voters passed an amendment in 2000. Twelve years later, on November 6, 2012, Colorado became the first state to vote in favor of marijuana for recreational use, ending the criminal charges associated with possession or purchase of pot for personal use.  Now, 16 states and Washington, DC have legalized recreational marijuana, with the number of states continuing to grow.

Report on Impaired Driving in Recreational States

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) looked at car accident rates in some of the first states that legalized recreational marijuana: California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. According to the IIHS-HLDI president, “Our latest research makes it clear that legalizing marijuana for recreational use does increase overall crash rates.”

According to the report, when states opened up retail sales of cannabis, there was a 6% increase in injury crash rates and a 4% increase in fatal crashes compared to other states where recreational marijuana use remained illegal. An earlier IIHS study also found a 5% increased crash rate after legalization for retail sales in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

No Increase in Crashes for Driver Using Only Marijuana

Many recreational users of marijuana do not believe smoking pot impairs driving ability but law enforcement continues to treat marijuana like other drugs when it comes to drugged driving. Research has been inconsistent, with different studies reaching different results. However, another IIHS report has found that the use of marijuana only may not increase accident rates. 

A report based on data collected from injured drivers in emergency rooms in Denver, Portland, and Sacramento showed no increased crash risk associated with marijuana alone. However, there was an increased crash risk when marijuana was combined with alcohol use. Surveys showed that drivers involved in a crash were not any more likely to test positive for marijuana alone compared to other drivers. 

Combining Alcohol and Marijuana

Alcohol impairs a driver's ability to safely operate a vehicle. Alcohol could delay reaction time, impair visual accuracy, and increase risk-taking behavior. A survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers who reported using alcohol in combination with marijuana were more likely to engage in dangerous driving, including speeding or aggressive driving

After an Accident With a Suspected Impaired Driver

If you were involved in an accident with a suspected impaired driver, you need to contact the police. The police do not respond to all accidents in Denver, and may only show up for an accident investigation if someone is injured, vehicles are blocking traffic, or if a driver may be impaired. It is important to get the police to respond because that may be the only way to get the driver tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs. 

If you have any questions about recovering compensation after an accident with an impaired driver, talk to an experienced Colorado auto accident lawyer for answers. Contact our Denver accident attorneys to fight for your rights and recover the full compensation available. 

About the Author

Jeremy Rosenthal

Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal is dedicated to helping his clients seek just compensation for their injuries regardless of the lengths he has to go to or the distances he may have to travel in order to get it.


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