A new study should help soothe any fears that New Mexico’s legalization of adult-use cannabis will result in more high driving. The study found that drivers living in states where cannabis is legal and readily available are less likely to drive high than those in states with prohibitive laws.

Less Drugged Drivers Under Legalization

Regulators and policymakers have voiced concerns about drugged driving since cannabis legalization was first put on the table. Understandably, leaders were worried that increased access to marijuana would give individuals more opportunities to drive while under the influence. While advocates assured the public that there was no reason for concern, there was little in the way of evidence to prove that fact.

But a new study published in the journal Preventative Medicine Reports is poised to change the conversation forever. The study surveyed 1,249 drivers about their cannabis habits, asking how often they had driven an automobile within three hours of smoking cannabis.

According to the results, over one third of participants had driven under the influence of marijuana in the last 30 days. But states where cannabis has been legalized either for recreational use or medical use had lower levels of self-reported driving drugged than states that still forbid the drug. The only exception was among frequent cannabis users. In states with recreational cannabis, frequent users were again found to drive drugged less often, but in medical-only states, frequent users showed no significant difference in risk compared to those in states where marijuana is illegal.

Similar Data From Teen Use

The results are incredible to say the least. But as counterintuitive as they may seem, they align with what has been found regarding cannabis use among teens in states where marijuana is legal.

A 2019 research letter published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics examined data from national and state Youth Risk Behavior Surveys released between 1993 and 2017. Researchers discovered that the likelihood of cannabis use in the past 30 days among high school students was lower in states that legalized recreational cannabis. The study found an eight percent reduction in the likelihood of teens trying cannabis for the first time and a nine percent decrease in the chance of developing cannabis use disorder.

The link between legalization and reduction in teen use found more support in a September 2021 research letter published in JAMA Network Open. This survey extended the previous review to 2019 and included more states where cannabis had been legalized. According to the authors, adoption of adult-use cannabis legalization showed no significant associated with current teen marijuana use or frequent teen marijuana use.

How Come?

The reason behind these strange links isn’t at all apparent. It could be possible that the heightened public attention on cannabis policies during legalization campaigns prior to the enactment of any laws helps to educate the citizenry on the dangers of drugged driving. It’s a real mystery!