Half of U.S. states have legalized medical cannabis (marijuana), some allow recreational use. The economic and public health effects of these policies are still being evaluated. We hypothesized that cannabis legalization was associated with an increase in the proportion of motor vehicle crash fatalities involving cannabis-positive drivers, and that cannabis use is associated with high-risk behavior and poor insurance status.


Since legalization of cannabis, THC-positivity among MVC fatalities has tripled state-wide, and THC-positivity among patients presenting to the highest-level trauma center has doubled. THC-positive patients are less likely to use protective devices and more likely to rely on publically funded medical insurance. These findings have implications nationally and underscore the need for further research and policy development to address the public health effects and the costs of cannabis-related trauma.

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