Study Finds Legalization Not Linked To More Traffic Injuries

A new Canadian study has found that cannabis legalization is not associated with elevated rates of injuries on the road.

The study, led by UBC Northern Medical Program Professor Dr. Russ Callaghan, found that the country’s legalization of cannabis in 2018 did not lead to increases in traffic injuries.

After Dr. Callaghan’s team reviewed all Ontario and Alberta emergency department data from April 1, 2015, to December 21, 2019, they found no evidence of significant changes in emergency department visits for traffic-related injuries.

According to a press release, the study data included youth and non-youth drivers.

Dr. Callaghan says implementing cannabis legalization had raised concern that it might spur an increase in traffic-related injuries, particularly among youths.

“Our results, however, show no evidence that legalization was associated with significant changes in emergency department traffic-injury presentations,” says Dr. Callaghan. “Our findings are somewhat surprising. I predicted that legalization would increase cannabis use and cannabis-impaired driving in the population, and this pattern would lead to increases in traffic-injury presentations to emergency departments.”

Dr. Callaghan says the results may be due to the deterrent effects of stricter federal legislation, like Bill C-46, going into effect after cannabis legalization.

Dr. Callaghan notes that new traffic safety laws mandate harsher penalties for driving under the influence of cannabis, alcohol, or both.

The study, which received partial support from a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Catalyst Grant, included researchers from UNBC, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, the University of Victoria, and Dalhousie University.

Dr. Callaghan and his team are currently working on a follow-up study on how cannabis legalization has impacted traffic fatalities from 2010 to 2020.

The team seeks to have study results available by summer 2022.