Study: Cannabis dispensaries not linked to rise in car crashes

Driving stoned: Aerial image of car driving through winded road in a forest

When state lawmakers begin to assess safety concerns associated with legalizing cannabis, road safety is often a top priority. From how to discern whether someone is driving under the influence of cannabis to worries about more accidents– it’s a hot topic in the wake of cannabis legalization.

Despite the widespread attention, recent research out of Toronto shows that traffic accidents in areas with dispensaries decreased after nationwide adult-use legalization took effect.

To conduct the study, the research team at the Université de Sherbrooke used the number of cannabis dispensaries per capita to assume the average cannabis consumption in an area. They could not track the association between cannabis-related crashes and deaths because Toronto Police did not test and record cannabis impairment in accident-involved drivers.

The team gathered data from the Toronto Police Service, Environment Canada, and Alcohol Gaming Commission of Ontario from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2019. Researchers adjusted data to reflect temperatures, precipitation, and snowfall rates that would impact car accident frequency before applying two different design methods.

They completed two analyses, one of the whole city of Toronto and another of four separate city districts as defined by the Toronto Police. Researchers looked at all crashes, the number of road victims (including pedestrians), and crashes that involve death or significant injury.

Data showed no rise in car accidents in the first year following legalization, either in the city or its districts. Both design methods showed that accidents per capita decreased following the implementation of CCA.

Despite promising results, this study has limitations, including not identifying the THC concentration in drivers at fault. The assumption of cannabis consumption based on cannabis stores per capita could also fail to capture an accurate picture of the population’s habits.

Additionally, the proliferation of dispensaries increased in 2020 and the years following. Researchers believe that further assessment is required to accurately understand how cannabis dispensaries in an area affect car accident frequency and severity.

This data shows that cannabis dispensaries don’t necessarily point to a higher rate of car accidents. However, more research is needed to understand the full scope of cannabis legalization on road safety.

As public safety officials figure out how to assess whether someone is driving under the influence and research teams seek to understand the role of cannabis in car accidents, it’s probably best to get a designated driver instead of getting behind the wheel after consuming.

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.