The benefits of legalization – whether for medicinal and/or recreational purposes – are more far-reaching than most people understand. As we continue to put an end to prohibition, we’ll continue to uncover new advantages of doing so. Two of the largest, most substantial benefits of legalization that recent studies have indicated; a drastic decrease in both suicides, and traffic fatalities. Who would of known?
A study conducted recently by the Institute for the Study of Labor, with help from researchers such as Daniel I. Rees of the University of Colorado’s Department of Economics, used a comprehensive statistical analysis to discover that states in the U.S. which have legalized medical marijuana saw a significant decrease in overall suicides – 5% in total. The drop was even higher among young adults aged 20 to 29, with an 11% decrease in overall suicides (the increase adds validity to the statistics, as individuals in that age group use cannabis at a considerably higher rate than the average person).
Although this is just one study, it’s extremely promising – it indicates that allowing the use of medical cannabis may have led to hundreds, if not thousands of prevented suicides. This is likely due in part to the fact that, according to university recent research released this month, cannabis can help fight depression and loneliness, and may raise self-esteem.
A different study, conducted around the same time, came to an equally surprising and important finding: Medical marijuana may reduce traffic fatalities.
According to the study released at the end of 2011 – which was reported on by Time Magazine and The Huffington Post – states which have legalized medical marijuana have seen a 9% reduction in traffic fatalities, indicating that one out of every eleven traffic deaths can be avoided if medical marijuana is legalized.
The study was conducted by Montana State University economics professor Mark Anderson, and Daniel Rees, a professor at the University of Colorado, and was published by the Institute for the Study of Labor.
For the study, researchers used an analysis of data from theNational Household Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Using the data, researchers compared traffic fatalities over time in states with and without medical marijuana laws, accounting for changes in each state’s law. The researchers found that fatal car crashes dropped by 9% in states that legalized medical marijuana.
Researchers associate the connection with a significant decrease in alcohol consumption, which is validated by their findings which show there to be a 14% decrease in car crashes where one of the drivers had consumed alcohol, in states where medical marijuana had been legalized.
Both of these studies are hugely important, and help to quantify some of the unknown benefits that legalization will bring forth. Neither study has garnered the attention it deserves, although recently reform advocates have been mentioning them more, just as they should.
We look forward to more research to help validate these findings. Until then, advocates should make sure to spread these studies far and wide.