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Conflicting studies on marijuana effect on road safety


Tuesday, Michigan voters will decide if they want to legalize recreational marijuana.

Meanwhile, there are conflicting views on whether legal weed will make Michigan’s streets more dangerous.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, collision claims are the most frequent kind of claims insurers receive.

Institute spokesman Russ Rader says they recently studied the frequency of collision claims in four states (Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) with retail recreational marijuana sales.

“In the states where pot is legal, crash risk changed and it went up,” says Rader, “Collision claim rates are higher than what we would have expected in the states where marijuana is legal.”

But pro-marijuana groups say the study is “extremely flawed.”

Josh Hovey is the spokesman for the group pushing Tuesday’s ballot question to legalize recreational marijuana. He says the IIHS study errs when it compares legal weed states (Washington, Colorado and Oregon) with non-legal states (Idaho and Wyoming). Hovey says it’s not an “apples-to-apples comparison.”

“Washington, Colorado and Oregon all have dense urban areas with far more congested traffic compared to those sparsely populated states, and the city of Denver has a larger population than the entire state of Wyoming,” says Hovey.

The IIHS study also does not confirm a direct link between marijuana use and claims. 

A different study by the American Public Health Associationfound three years after legalization there were no statistical differences in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado compared with similar states without legal pot.

Though the authors of that study say more research is needed. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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