Lakeland, FL: The adoption of state-level marijuana legalization laws is associated with reductions in the number of alcohol-related fatalities involving pedestrians, according to data published in the journal IATSS (International Association of Traffic and Safety Sciences) Research.
A pair of researchers affiliated with Florida Polytechnic University examined the relationship between marijuana legalization and rates of pedestrian-involved fatal crashes between the years 1985 and 2019.
Investigators reported that the passage of both medical cannabis access laws and adult-use legalization laws were linked with overall declines in pedestrian fatalities, including declines in alcohol-related fatalities. Authors suggested that these results may be due to consumers substituting cannabis for alcohol.
They concluded: “As of 2019, we find [that] liberalization has been associated with lower pedestrian fatalities, not higher. Further, the pattern is consistent with the alcohol substitution hypothesis. Specifically, the induced decline in alcohol related fatalities following liberalization is large enough to more than compensate for any additional fatalities due to marijuana consumption.”
Research assessing whether alcohol and cannabis act as either compliments or substitutes has yielded mixed results, though some data suggests that marijuana meets many of the criteria necessary to qualify it as a potential substitute for alcohol.
Statewide ecological data has reported dips in alcohol sales in jurisdictions following the enactment of marijuana access laws. A 2021 study published in the journal Addiction concluded that cannabis use was associated with a decrease in the amount of alcohol consumed by individuals seeking alcohol treatment.
Full text of the study, “Marijuana laws and pedestrian fatalities in the United States,” appears in IATSS Research.