Listen to this article The Impact of Recreational Cannabis Legalization on Traffic Injuries in Canada
In 2018, Canada legalized the recreational cannabis, making it the second country in the world to do so. This led to concerns about the potential impact on public health and safety, including an increase in traffic injuries. To address these concerns, researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital, the University of Toronto, and the Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Health conducted a study to measure the impact of cannabis legalization on rates of traffic injuries in Canada.
The study used an interrupted time series analysis of rates of emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations in Canada, recorded in population-based databases from January/April 2010 to March 2021.
In addition the researchers examined ED visits in Ontario and Alberta and hospitalizations in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan), and Maritimes (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island). To calculate monthly rates per 100,000 population, we used monthly counts of presentations for motor vehicle injury or pedestrian/cyclist injury at the ED or hospital. The study utilized an occurrence of one or more International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision, Canada (ICD-10-CA) code for motor vehicle injury (V20-V29, V40-V79, V30-39, V86) and pedestrian/cyclist injury (V01-V09, V10-V19) within the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System and Discharge Abstract Database.
The study found that there were no statistically significant changes in rates of ED visits and hospitalizations for motor vehicle or pedestrian/cyclist injury after the legalization of recreational cannabis, after accounting for multiple testing.
However, the researchers noted an immediate decrease in the rate of ED visits for motor vehicle injury after the COVID-19 lockdowns, which was statistically significant only in Ontario (level change ß = -16.07 in Ontario, 95% confidence interval [CI] -20.55 to -11.60, p=0.000; ß = -10.34 in Alberta, 95% CI -17.80 to -2.89, p=0.008; alpha of 0.004). There were no changes in rates of hospitalizations for traffic injuries.
The study’s findings suggest that the legalization of recreational cannabis did not have a significant impact on motor vehicle and pedestrian/cyclist injuries in Canada. This is consistent with previous research conducted in other countries that have legalized cannabis, such as Colorado in the United States. The study also highlights the importance of considering external factors such as COVID-19 lockdowns when analyzing trends in traffic injuries. The decrease in the rate of ED visits for motor vehicle injury after COVID-19 suggests that measures such as reduced traffic congestion and increased public awareness of safety may have contributed to the decline.
In conclusion, the study provides evidence that the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada did not have a significant impact on rates of traffic injuries. This information can be used to inform policy decisions and public education efforts regarding the responsible use of cannabis and road safety. The study’s findings also emphasize the importance of continued monitoring and analysis of trends in traffic injuries to ensure the safety of all Canadians on the roads.
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