When it comes to driving while under the influence of marijuana, states that have enacted legalization are seeing less of the potentially dangerous behavior than states that continue criminalization, according to a new study.
The analysis of self-reported driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC) found that people are less likely to drive within three hours of consuming marijuana in states that have legalized for medical or recreational use compared to non-legal states.
Researchers with the nonprofit RTI International said that while there does appear to be an exception with respect to medical cannabis patients who report frequent use—whose behavior did not differ significantly from frequent users living in states without legal marijuana—the broader takeaway is that prohibition states are generally more likely to have impaired drivers on the roads.
“The risk of self-reported DUIC was lower in recreational and medical cannabis states compared to states without legal cannabis.”
The difference may be the result of public education efforts in legal states that specifically deter driving while high.
“The risk of self-reported DUIC was significantly lower in recreational and medical states than in neither states,” the study authors wrote. “Current cannabis users in recreational and medical only cannabis states were significantly less likely to report driving within three hours of getting high in the past 30 days, compared to current users living in states without legal cannabis.”
“One potential explanation for lower prevalence of DUIC in legal states is perceived safety of cannabis use, which is associated with DUIC and varies by legalization,” the study continues. “In legal states, cannabis users may receive more information about the risks of cannabis use from sources like physicians who issue medical cannabis cards or dispensary staff than users living in neither states.”
Another factor that may be at play is labeling requirements in legal states that caution drivers against consuming before getting behind the wheel, the researchers said.
“States that have not legalized cannabis cannot regulate the labeling of cannabis products, while many recreational and medical states require warning labels and instructions on products,” the researchers wrote. “Some edible cannabis products contain warnings about driving within a few hours of consumption.”