Early Evidence on Recreational Marijuana Legalization and Traffic Fatalities

44 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2018

See all articles by Benjamin Hansen

Benjamin Hansen

University of Oregon - Department of Economics; NBER; IZA

Keaton Miller

University of Oregon

Caroline Weber

University of Oregon - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 2018

Abstract

Over the last few years, marijuana has become legally available for recreational use to roughly a quarter of Americans. Policy makers have long expressed concerns about the substantial external costs of alcohol, and similar costs could come with the liberalization of marijuana policy. Indeed, the fraction of fatal accidents in which at least one driver tested positive for THC has increased nationwide by an average of 10 percent from 2013 to 2016. For Colorado and Washington, both of which legalized marijuana in 2014, these increases were 92 percent and 28 percent, respectively. However, identifying a causal effect is difficult due to the presence of significant confounding factors. We test for a causal effect of marijuana legalization on traffic fatalities in Colorado and Washington with a synthetic control approach using records on fatal traffic accidents from 2000-2016. We find the synthetic control groups saw similar changes in marijuana-related, alcohol-related and overall traffic fatality rates despite not legalizing recreational marijuana.

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Suggested Citation

Hansen, Benjamin and Miller, Keaton and Weber, Caroline, Early Evidence on Recreational Marijuana Legalization and Traffic Fatalities (March 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24417. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3143342

Benjamin Hansen (Contact Author)

University of Oregon - Department of Economics ( email )

1285 University of ORegon
Eugene, OR 97403
United States

NBER ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Keaton Miller

University of Oregon ( email )

1280 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
United States

Caroline Weber

University of Oregon - Department of Economics ( email )

Eugene, OR 97403
United States

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