PUEBLO, Colo - A new study out of Columbia University'S Mailman School of Public Health is linking the legalization of medical marijuana to lower traffic fatalities across the nation.
There's been 584 traffic deaths in Colorado so far this year, and this study shows, that number has been on the decline since the legalization of medical marijuana in states across the country.
"The first thing we saw was a reduction in fatalities, and we were like, 'Oh my gosh, that's totally unexpected," one of the study authors," Julian Santaella-Tenorio, said.
In Colorado, the study found an almost 7 percent drop from 1985 to 2014
Tenorio says it's 25 to 44 year- olds that might be substituting alcohol use for marijuana.
"It's not that marijuana is safer, but is essentially you're removing all those deaths that are alcohol- related from the picture," Tenorio said.
Another contributing factor, according to Tenorio, is drivers under the influence of alcohol have been found to drive faster and more erratically, while drivers under the influence of marijuana do the opposite. They drive slower and leave more room between cars because they're more aware they're under the influence.
"It just goes to show you, alcohol is way worse, than cannabis is," Iesha Jiron, general manager at Leaf on the Mesa, said.
Jiron hopes to see more research like this conducted.
"We really need to work on those legitimate studies and make sure that we're getting correct data out there an people are informed instead of misinformed," Jiron said.
What's no addressed is how specific cities fared. Researchers were looking at broad data on fatalities for the state, but hope to take their research to a local level as it moves forward.