EDITORIAL: Illinois, there are red flags on legalizing recreational pot – Chicago Sun-Times

We’ve said before that there’s no need to rush to legalize recreational marijuana, and it bears repeating now.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has promised to move swiftly on legalization. This Editorial Board remains skeptical.  

We’re not necessarily opposed to legalization. But we want to see more definitive answers to pressing questions about the impact on public health, public safety and more before we’re convinced that any potential benefits outweigh the risks.


Consider this new big red flag, as reported in the Washington Post: A recent study found that motor vehicle crashes increased by 6 percent in four states — Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Nevada — that have legalized recreational pot, compared with four neighboring states that have not.

“What we’re seeing is a definite increase in crash risk that is associated with the legalized recreational use of marijuana,” said David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute, which conducted the study.

“Associated with” definitely calls for more research. As Harkey acknowledged, the study only shows a correlation, not a direct link, between legal pot and higher crash risk.

Keep this in mind, though: IIHS did the same study the previous year, in three of the same four states, and came to the same conclusion.  Add in the exhaustive, 468-page study by the National Academy of Medicine that, among other disturbing findings, concluded that cannabis use does, indeed, increase the risk of fatal car accidents, as the New Yorker reported.

Balance that risk against the progress Illinois has made in reducing traffic fatalities, which declined last year after rising significantly every year from 2015 through 2017.

Researchers have also found another potential land mine: the possibility that regular marijuana use causes mental health problems. We’re not talking 1930s “Reefer Madness” hysteria, either.

According to the

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