Wow, who knew so many glaucoma patients were drunk drivers?
A new study from University of Colorado-Denver researchers reports,
The legalization of medical marijuana is associated with a 6.4 percent decrease in fatal crashes that did not involve alcohol, but this estimate is not statistically significant at conventional levels. In comparison, the legalization of medical marijuana is associated with an almost 12 percent decrease in any-BAC fatal crashes per 100,000 licensed drivers, and an almost 14 percent decrease in high-BAC fatal crashes per 100,000 licensed drivers.
The negative relationship between legalization of medical marijuana and traffic fatalities involving alcohol is consistent with the hypothesis that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes. In order to explore this hypothesis further, we examine the relationship between medical marijuana laws and alcohol consumption using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and The Brewer’s Almanac. We find that the legalization of medical marijuana is associated with decreased alcohol consumption, especially by 20- through 29-year-olds. In addition we find that legalization is associated with decreased beer sales, the most popular alcoholic beverage among young adults.
The problem with this study is obvious.
The authors’ hypothesis is that 20-29 year-olds are substituting marijuana for beer, which reduces the incidence of drunk driving accidents.
But isn’t medical marijuana supposed to be dispensed by physicians to presumably sick patients? The authors summarize medical marijuana laws as follows:
Federal regulations prohibit doctors from writing prescriptions for marijuana. In addition, even if a doctor were to illegally prescribe marijuana, it would be against federal law for pharmacies to distribute it. Doctors in states that have legalized medical marijuana avoid violating federal law by recommending marijuana to their patients rather than prescribing its use. Because it is illegal for pharmacies to distribute marijuana, cannabis products intended for medicinal use are typically obtained from cooperatives or dispensaries.
So if the hypothesis reported by the researchers is true, medical marijuana laws have essentially devolved into recreational marijuana laws — as opponents said they would. Whether or not that is a good thing is open for debate, but this study draws a somewhat misleading inverse correlation between medical marijuana and drunk driving.
What they really ought to say is that smoking dope — regardless of the source of the dope — may be correlated with reduced drunk driving.
But even that conclusion is caveated with the fact that the researchers performed only a statistical study and do not actually have any direct evidence that dope smoking had any effect on drunk driving.