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Legal medical marijuana leads to safer roads and lower car insurance premiums

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A new study links the legalization of medical cannabis to lower car insurance premiums resulting from fewer road accidents. The study estimates that legalization reduced healthcare costs related to motor vehicle accidents by $820 million per year.

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The study estimates that if the federal government legalized cannabis, an additional $350 million could be saved. The findings of the study, conducted by researchers at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, fall a far cry from the concerns of opponents of cannabis legalization that the roads in legal states would be filled with dangerously stoned drivers.

The researchers published the study in Health Economics. They hypothesized that the reduction in accidents that led to lower insurance rates was due, in part, to fewer people driving while intoxicated because they had access to cannabis.

RELATED: Marijuana legalization has surprising effect on crime

Does Cannabis Reduce Alcohol Consumption?

Cannabis legalization seems to have accelerated a trend that started years ago: younger generations in America are drinking less alcohol. This is partly due to their different attitude towards cannabis.

A recent survey revealed that 58% of Americans believe that alcohol is more harmful to a person’s health than cannabis. There is a big difference between the generations: 71% of Millennials, 63% of Gen Z, 55% of Gen X, 51% of Baby Boomers and only 27% of Silent Generation think alcohol is more harmful than grass.

But has this belief led people to switch from alcohol to cannabis? Some studies indicate that this happens. For example, a study from the University of Washington found that access to legal cannabis led to a reduction in alcohol consumption in the previous month among 21-24 year olds. And Massachusetts reported that cannabis sales exceed alcohol sales in 2021.

In California, it’s even led to a trend called “Cali Sober” in which people eliminate or drastically reduce alcohol consumption in favor of cannabis.

RELATED: How much tax revenue did legal weed generate in 2021?

A reduction in car insurance premiums

The study analyzed insurance data from 2014 to 2019 in states that have legalized medical marijuana. The researchers found that premiums dropped by about $22 per year on average after states legalized medical cannabis.

The researchers attributed the decline to safer roads, theorizing that reduced drunk driving is part of it. This link between legal medical cannabis and improved road safety has led to lower health care costs related to road accidents. It also resulted in reduced insurance premiums totaling about $1.5 billion over the years considered by the study.

The researchers also found that “the effect is greater in areas close to a dispensary and in areas with higher prevalence of drunk driving before legalization.”

The study offers another point for lawmakers to consider in states where medical marijuana is illegal or restricted. These states include larger states such as Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

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