The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

December 1, 2011
Does medical marijuana mean fewer traffic deaths?

Advocates of medical marijuana make lots of arguments: it eases pain for the seriously ill, it brings into the open the underground black market, etc., etc.

Here's a possible new one for their arsenal -- it can reduce traffic deaths, especially those tied to drinking.

That's the conclusion of a new study that found that traffic fatalities dropped by nearly 9 percent in the 13 states, including California, which legalized medical pot between 1990 and 2009.

In their paper published by a German research center, economists D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University and Daniel I. Rees of the University of Colorado say the link between marijuana and traffic safety is beer consumption.

They suggest that the easier the access to pot, the more people are substituting marijuana for beer, especially 20- to 29-year-olds. Less drinking, particularly in bars, means less drinking and driving and fewer accidents.

That, of course, cuts both ways because it suggests that medical marijuana is being widely used recreationally -- not quite what most California voters thought they were approving when they passed Proposition 215 in 1996.

Based on a more limited sample -- Montana, Vermont and Rhode Island -- Anderson and Rees also say that the legalization of medical marijuana leads to increased consumption among adults, but not among children.

Emily Badger, writing for the Atlantic magazine's website on city issues, notes that this study could also interest those who want to reduce traffic deaths. Raising the driving age reduced deaths. So did mandatory seat-belt laws. "Policy-makers," she writes, "may now want to add to this list an unexpected intervention: Legalize medical marijuana."

About Comments

Reader comments on are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

Stuart Leavenworth on Twitter

Follow "SacBeeEditBoard" on Twitter