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Cannabis-involved traffic injury emergency department visits after cannabis legalization and commercialization


Importance — The impact of nonmedical cannabis legalization on traffic injuries and cannabis involvement in traffic injuries is unclear.

Objective — To examine changes in the number and characteristics of cannabis-involved traffic injury emergency department (ED) visits from before to after legalization and subsequent commercialization (ie, increased retail store and product availability) of cannabis in Ontario, Canada.

Design, Setting and Participants — This repeated cross-sectional study examined changes in cannabis- and alcohol-involved traffic injury ED visits in Ontario, Canada, during 3 time periods: prelegalization (January 2010-September 2018), legalization with product and retail store restrictions (October 2018-February 2020), and commercialization with new products and expanded number of stores, which coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020-December 2021). All individuals aged 16 years and older eligible for Ontario’s Universal Health Coverage were included. Season- and time-adjusted quasi-Poisson models were used to generate rate ratios with 95% CIs. Data were analyzed from March to April 2023.

Main Outcomes and Measures — Quarterly counts of cannabis-involved ED visits for traffic injury.

Results — There were 947 604 traffic injury ED visits, of which 426 (0.04%) had documented cannabis involvement and 7564 (0.8%) had documented alcohol involvement. Of the 418 individuals with documented cannabis involvement, 330 (78.9%) were male, 109 (25.6%) were aged 16 to 21 years (mean [SD] age at visit, 30.6 [12.0] years), and 113 (27.0%) had an ED visit or hospitalization for substance use in the 2 years before their traffic injury ED visit. Annual rates of cannabis-involved traffic injury ED visits increased 475.3% over the study period (0.18 visits per 1000 total motor vehicle collisions in 2010 to 1.01 in 2021). Over the same period, alcohol-involved traffic injury ED visits increased by 9.4% (8.03 in 2010 to 8.79 per 1000 traffic injury ED visits in 2021). Legalization with restrictions was associated with a 94% increase in the quarterly rate of cannabis involvement in traffic injury ED visits relative to prelegalization (adjusted rate ratio [aRR], 1.94; 95% CI, 1.37-2.75). Commercialization/COVID-19 was associated with a greater increase of 223% in rates (aRR, 3.23; 95% CI, 2.42-4.33). After adjusting for time trends before legalization, only commercialization/COVID-19 was associated with increased rates. Male sex (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 3.38; 95% CI, 2.66-4.29), living in the lowest-income neighborhood (aOR, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.39-2.67), being aged 19 to 21 years (aOR, 4.67; 95% CI, 3.27-6.67), and having a prior cannabis-related ED visit (aOR, 8.03; 95% CI, 5.85-11.02) were all positively associated with cannabis involvement during a traffic injury ED visit.

Conclusions and Relevance — This cross-sectional study found large increases in cannabis involvement in ED visits for traffic injury over time, which may have accelerated following nonmedical cannabis commercialization. Although the frequency of visits was rare, they may reflect broader changes in cannabis-impaired driving. Greater prevention efforts, including targeted education and policy measures, in regions with legal cannabis are indicated.



Myran DT, Gaudreault A, Pugliese M, Manuel D, Tanuseputro P. JAMA Netw Open. 2023; 6(9):e2331551. Epub 2023 Sep 6.

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