State Marijuana Policies and Vehicle Fatalities

64 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2017

Date Written: August 1, 2017


Since 1996, the majority of states in the US have legalized marijuana for medical purposes while a growing number have also legalized recreational marijuana use for individuals 21 and older. Predictions regarding the impact of legalizing recreational marijuana on health outcomes have been based largely on studies that examine medical marijuana legalization. Vehicle fatalities are one such outcome that have been predicted to decrease with marijuana legalization. We combine variation in state-wide marijuana policies with quarterly vehicle fatality data using both a difference-in-differences and synthetic control approach to estimate the casual relationship between marijuana legalization and vehicle fatalities. Contrary to predictions in the literature, results suggest that legalizing marijuana for recreational use increases the rate of quarterly vehicle fatalities by nearly 8% relative to states where recreational marijuana remains illegal. We also present new estimates of the relationship between medical marijuana legalization and vehicle fatalities. Consistent with previous work, results suggest a significant reduction in vehicle fatality rates.

Keywords: Marijuana, Vehicle Fatalities, Synthetic Control

JEL Classification: I18, K32, K42

Suggested Citation

Vogler, Jacob, State Marijuana Policies and Vehicle Fatalities (August 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: or
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