Based on crash data from states that have legalized recreational cannabis, a research organization has released a report that says collision claims in those states are three percent higher than in states that have not legalized. Does this mean car insurance rates will go up in states with legal weed?
The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI)—a nonprofit organization wholly funded by auto insurance companies—says that Colorado, Oregon and Washington experienced higher rates of collision claims following the legalization of recreational cannabis.
High Premiums To Get Higher?
This has some New Jersey drivers worried as the state considers legalizing weed. New Jersey’s auto insurance premiums are amongst the highest in the nation, according to a July report. The average New Jersey resident pays $1,375 in auto insurance, as compared to the national average of $1,318.
With the election of Democrat Phil Murphy as governor earlier this month, legalizing recreational cannabis is at the forefront of the political agenda in the Garden State. Murphy’s campaign called for legalization, claiming the state will bring in $300 million a year in taxes from a regulated marijuana market. Murphy has promised to legalize cannabis in New Jersey within his first 100 days in office, and sources say that the bill is at the ready to be signed.
However, several New Jersey lawmakers have expressed reservations about going forward with the plan to legalize. State Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, called for hearings on the matter, “to make sure that we really delve into the details of this issue.” He cited the potential increase in impaired driving as a concern.
Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, released a statement that said in part, “The reality is that legalizing weed won’t solve New Jersey’s affordability crisis, especially when you consider how much money we are going to have to spend just to make sure law enforcement officials have the resources to handle a massive increase in drugged driving.”
No Massive Increase
The reality of it is that legalizing cannabis isn’t going to change people’s driving habits.
There will not be a massive increase in “drugged driving.” Responsible consumers will be careful, as they always have been, and the income from taxed and regulated marijuana will offset any costs of monitoring the roads for impaired drivers. Even the Highway Loss Data Institute—which, remember, is supported entirely by the automobile insurance industry—points to a minor increase in collision claims. Three percent is not a massive increase by anyone’s standards.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has a list of guidelines on driving while impaired. The penalties for driving stoned in Colorado are the same as drunk driving, and refusing to take a blood test revokes driving privileges. New Jersey could possibly adopt similar guidelines to combat impaired driving.
Get On Board, People
New Jersey lawmakers need to get behind what will be a huge influx of cash for the state’s coffers. Legalizing recreational cannabis will stop the disproportionate arrests of people of color for low-level, non-violent marijuana offenses. It will relieve pressure on the prison system. It will create job opportunities and open up a whole new economic sector.
Responsible adults who choose to consume cannabis will do so, whether it’s legal or not. And responsible drivers will follow the law. Tax and regulate recreational cannabis, New Jersey. That way, we all win.