Marijuana and Road Fatalities, Overdoses

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In case you missed it, Phil Murphy campaigned for governor (in part) on a promise to legalize marijuana in his first hundred days then won the election by 13 points, but his proposal has become “controversial” in recent weeks. Briefing for the opposition today in the valuable NJ Spotlight is “a leading expert and pioneer in the field of addiction medicine” Dr. Indra Cidambi who raises a number of important questions and makes assertions of fact, including two based on the experience in Colorado, where:

1. “fatal auto crashes increased 40 percent from 2013 to 2016, with drivers involved in these crashes testing positive for marijuana increasing 145 percent in the same period.” And:

2. “heroin-related overdose deaths rose 93 percent from 2013 to 228 (according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) in 2016 (comparable national statistics not yet available).”

These are interesting because it’s often asserted that legal marijuana correlated with fewer opioid deaths in Colorado, and elsewhere. And a recent survey of highway fatality headlines reveals the following confusing mélange: “More drivers in fatal crashes in Colorado are testing for marijuana use” (Denver Post) “Marijuana legalization has not increased traffic fatalities” (Colorado Politics) and “Traffic deaths linked cannabis climb in Colorado” (Mercury News). Meanwhile a study in the American Journal of Public Health said “changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization. Future studies over a longer time remain warranted.”

So what’s going on here? Is legal marijuana causing more fatal car accidents and overdoses? Is it not having any detectable impact? Is the American Journal of Public Health in the bag for Big Marijuana? Does anyone know what’s really going on? I trust anyone in a lab coat, dashingly removing a pair of eyeglasses.

For what it’s worth, here’s the Colorado DOT’s graph of historical road fatalities.

Coronato Exit Interview
Elsewhere in drug wars, Joe Coronato, the Ocean County Prosecutor who made headline in his efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, is (likely) leaving office and Nicole Leonard at the Press of AC has a profile. “If you think it’s easily done to get a person to and into treatment once we have them, you’re wrong,” he said.

Regulations are Bad
The National Transportation Safety Board proposed a rule that would have required train engineers and truck drivers to be screened for sleep apnea, which was declared a factor in crashes recently. But the Trump administration killed the rule because regulations are bad or something. The chairman of the NTSB said the move to pull the rule left him “mystified.”

In other news from around the region:

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