Cannabis Legalization in Canada Not Linked to Increase in Traffic-Injury ER Visits

A recent study found that Canadian cannabis legalization was not associated with significant post-legalization changes in traffic-injury emergency department visits.

Full story after the jump.

A study published this month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that Canadian cannabis legalization “was not associated with evidence of significant post-legalization changes in traffic-injury [emergency department] visits in Ontario or Alberta among all drivers or youth drivers, in particular.” The study, a collaboration between the University of Northern British Columbia, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the University of Victoria, and Dalhousie University included data from hospitals in Alberta and Ontario, which record 100% of their emergency room admissions in a public database. The study included more than 250,000 reports of traffic-related injuries from adult drivers and youth drivers from 2015 to 2019.

In Alberta, youth drivers are classified as 14- to-17-years-old. In Ontario, youth drivers are classified as 16- to-18-years-old. Of the 52,752 reported injuries by adult drivers in Alberta, the researchers found an increase of 9.17 visits and of the 186,921 reported injuries by adult drivers. In Ontario, there was an increase of 28.93 visits.

Dr. Russ Callaghan, the lead researcher of the study, told CKPG Today that the results were “contrary” to his expectations.

“What we found that immediately after cannabis legalization, there was no change in these patterns … I thought those patterns would go up.” Callaghan to CKPG Today

Callaghan did note that the study should not be taken to mean “that the legalization didn’t have an impact on traffic” and the study didn’t look at fatalities or collisions.

“Really what I wanted to do was assess some of the major indicators that could contribute to this parliamentary review and also help the public understand what the consequences of this legislation might be,” he said in the report.

The nation’s cannabis legalization bill includes strict driving-while-impaired laws, which Callaghan said may play a role in the lack of correlation.

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