Want a Drop in DUI Rates? Legalize Pot

tomkawila / shutterstock.com
tomkawila / shutterstock.com

1971 saw the start of the “War on Drugs” by President Richard Nixon. Intending to undermine the hippie anti-war movement from the Vietnam conflict, he looked toward the marijuana and heroin users. With both being comprised of many returning veterans who disagreed with the war after coming home, the war was on, but it also targeted a large number of the same people it wanted to support. However, alcohol was left out of this war.

While Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases also skyrocketed, it took until 1980 for the formation of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to be formed. A grief-stricken mother wanted to see the end of alcohol-related accidents after losing her daughter. Since they were formed, the rate of fatal DUIs has dropped by 55%. Yet many areas still deal with rampant alcohol abuse as well as people driving drunk.

Now, researchers from the University of Colorado and the University of Minnesota have discovered that legal marijuana has had a direct correlation with lower DUI rates.

Studying 240 pairs of twins where one lived in a legal marijuana state and the other one lived where was criminalized saw dramatic results. While alcohol consumption did not differ, those with legal cannabis were “less likely to risk harm while under the influence of alcohol,” than the twin living without it. “Recreational legalization was associated with increased cannabis use and decreased AUD symptoms but was not associated with other maladaptations.”

The peer-reviewed study was posted in mid-January in the journal Psychological Medicine. The journal did caution however that the data was “difficult to interpret and merits additional investigation in future work.” Any kind of change in DUI rates is always worth another look, and this study being the first of its kind would certainly qualify.

“We assessed a broad range of outcomes, including other substance use, substance dependence, disordered personality, externalizing and legal issues, relationship agreement, workplace behavior, civic engagement, and cognition.” Yet they also found “no detrimental nor protective effects for the majority of these domains, nor did we identify any increased vulnerability conferred by established risk factors.”

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study has a broad range of applications for data points going forward. With Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) on the rise since COVID, the legalization of marijuana could help break the cycle. The results speak for themselves, and with the tax and travel boom many legal states are seeing, it is a wonder so many have continued to drag their feet for so long.

“In the co-twin control design accounting for earlier cannabis frequency and alcohol use disorder symptoms respectively, the twin living in a recreational state used cannabis on average more often and had fewer AUD symptoms than their co-twin living in a non-recreational state. Cannabis legalization was associated with no other adverse outcome in the co-twin design, including cannabis use disorder. No risk factor significantly interacted with legalization status to predict any outcome.”

Other studies about the stigma of the “lazy stoner”, the impacts of legalization concerning adolescents experimenting with it, and environmental damage from large grow operations have been conducted, with many more underway. Thus far it has proven to provide a much-needed boom to the agricultural industry, with many farms being quickly repurposed for growing cannabis. Its sister plant hemp has also been providing a massive influx of opportunities in states without legal marijuana.

The twins in this study aren’t new to this, either. With the study starting back in 2014 and before the first legal cannabis states, they are now all adults between 24 and 49. Needless to say, they have had ample opportunities to get there, and the study has a solid foundation for lowering the rate of DUIs. More information still needs to be gathered, but it looks promising.

For states barely hanging on and unable to fix simple things like potholes, the potheads have been a saving grace. They buy often, and they infuse their states with much-needed tax revenue. Most would rather have a safe reliable system instead of that weird guy. Maybe it’s time we tell them their money is more than welcome. God knows with Biden in office, we need it.