You won’t believe how cannabis legalization is impacting communities

legalization and road safety

The benefits of cannabis legalization are bountiful and well-documented. Cities and states are collecting heaping piles of tax money, people have access to regulated products, and in some states, OG cannabis entrepreneurs’ records are being expunged. Now, two studies are showing some unexpected outcomes of freeing the plant.

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Cannabis legalization and road safety

One of the most frequent worries regarding cannabis legalization is road safety. But the roads may be more chill following reform, according to a recently published review.

Using data from the National Safety Council (NSC), the financial service review site Quartz Advisor looked into the vehicle death rates in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada from 2016 to 2021. According to data, vehicle death rates increased by six percent in legal states. The rates decreased by 0.7 percent in prohibition states over that time period. But this doesn’t tell the whole story.

From 2020 to 2021, car accident fatalities skyrocketed nationwide. Overall, traffic fatality rates saw a rise of almost 19 percent in the U.S. from 2019 to 2021. Legalized states saw these rates increase almost 20 percent in those COVID years. States that have not legalized saw a 2.3 percent fall in fatalities in that time.

Study authors noted that these locales are more rural than legalized regions, which could have played a role in this sharp difference since 2019. With this in mind, the team looked at fatalities from 2016 to 2019 to understand if the 2020 to 2021 anomaly years impacted the study.

Turns out that it did. From 2016 to 2019, traffic fatality rates decreased almost 11 percent in the U.S. In the years following legalization, three of the studied states saw a decrease in vehicle-related deaths. Maine’s rates remained the same. Massachusetts experienced the most prolific decline of 28.6 percent.

The study ended with a proclamation that traffic safety shouldn’t stop any government from legalizing it because it’s probably not an issue.

Medical cannabis impacts insurance rates

Another study looks into the impact of medical cannabis legalization, and this one might save people some money. Americans pay 16 to 34 percent of their household income on health insurance premiums and spending. Those in states with medical cannabis laws seem to be paying less, according to a recent study.

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U.S. private insurer financial data was gathered from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to understand how premiums have been impacted by the implementation of medical marijuana regulations between 2010 and 2021.

Turns out, states with access to medical cannabis saw almost $1700 less in insurance premiums compared to those without. Researchers presented this information with 95 percent confidence and no conflicts of interest.

Cannabis legalization has some obvious upsides, like easy access to a bounty of cannabis products. And though North America is becoming a world hub for cannabis, teen use is trending down. As the years go by and legal cannabis becomes a normal part of society, other benefits are emerging.

States looking at legal weed in 2024 might not need to pour over road safety impact, and those facing medical marijuana might save some money on health insurance in the coming years. As the plant continues winning elections, statisticians are bound to find more unlikely upsides to legalizing pot.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.