To date, 19 states have passed medical marijuana laws, yet very little is known about their effects. The current study examines the relationship between the legalization of medical marijuana and traffic fatalities, the leading cause of death among Americans ages 5–34. The first full year after coming into effect, legalization is associated with an 8–11 percent decrease in traffic fatalities. The impact of legalization on traffic fatalities involving alcohol is larger and estimated with more precision than its impact on traffic fatalities that do not involve alcohol. Legalization is also associated with sharp decreases in the price of marijuana and alcohol consumption, which suggests that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes. Because alternative mechanisms cannot be ruled out, the negative relationship between legalization and alcohol-related traffic fatalities does not necessarily imply that driving under the influence of marijuana is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol.
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The Journal of Law & Economics
The Journal of Law and Economics is an academic journal published by the University of Chicago Press. It publishes articles on the economic analysis of regulation and the behavior of regulated firms, the political economy of legislation and legislative processes, law and finance, corporate finance and governance, and industrial organization. The journal is sponsored by the University of Chicago Law School.