High Risk? Marijuana Legalization and Roadway Safety
September 22, 2021 | Webinar
Marijuana use has doubled over the past decade as more states have legalized its medical and recreational use. Today cannabis shops are increasingly common in cities and towns across the country – in fact, half of this webinar’s audience reported having a cannabis store in their hometown. So, what does the increase in use and accessibility of marijuana mean for roadway safety? In this installment of Wednesdays with Woodward webinar series, Travelers Institute President Joan Woodward gathered an expert panel including Matt Moore of the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), Christy Thiems of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) and Bill Zielinski of Travelers for an in-depth discussion of the risk the legalization of marijuana poses to our roads.
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Title card, Wednesdays with Woodward (registered trademark) Webinar Series. High risk? Marijuana Legalization and Roadway Safety. Logos, American Property Casualty Insurance Association, Insuring America, a.p.c.i. dot org, IIHS HLDI, Travelers Institute Travelers, Metro Hartford Alliance.
Hi, good afternoon everyone, and thank you for joining us today. I'm Joan Woodward, and I'm honored to lead the Travelers Institute, which is a public policy and educational arm of travelers. Welcome to Wednesdays with Woodward.
A webinar series we created to convene leading experts on discussions for some of today's most biggest challenges that we face, both on our personal lives and our professional lives. Today's topic, Marijuana.
So as always, we want you to be part of our conversations with our webinars. We invite you to submit your questions using that Q&A function at the bottom of your screen. And check send anonymously if you don't want me to read your name. So, and don't wait till the end to submit your questions. Let's get those in while some of our speakers are presenting to us.
Also, we have a great lineup for our fall programming, so be sure to stay in touch with us. We're going to put this in the chat right now.
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So before I get started, I'd like to share our disclaimer about today's webinar.
Slide, About Travelers Institute Webinars. Wednesdays with Woodward educational webinar series is presented by the Travelers Institute, the public policy division of Travelers. This program is offered for informational and educational purposes only. You should consult with your financial, legal, insurance or other advisors about any practices suggested by this program. Please note that this session is being recorded and may be used as Travelers deems appropriate. Returns to title card.
And I'd also like to thank our partners today. So our partners today are the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and its affiliate the Highway Loss Data Institute.
IIHS is an independent scientific educational organization, really dedicated to reducing deaths, injuries, and property damage from motor vehicle crashes. And HLDI supports this mission through really scientific studies, and insurance data, and publishes insurance loss results by vehicle make and model.
So IIHS, if you're looking to buy a new car or especially a used car, they list every single safety feature and crash data analysis that they do on every different make and model. So go check out their website. IIHS and HLDI are supported by Travelers, and the entire insurance industry. And we're proud to have been a member company since 2005, sharing our data to support their research.
We're also proud today to partner with the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, the primary national trade association for the home, auto, and business insurers so it's nice to be with us today.
And the Metro Hartford Alliance. The Hartford regions--Hartford, Connecticut regions economic development powerhouse. So a huge thanks to all our partners, and a special welcome to their members joining us today. So let's get started.
Today, we're taking a look at the impact of the legalization of marijuana on roadway safety. This is a really critically important issue for everyone out there. So you may have seen the shops popping up in your town, marijuana has had a makeover.
Pot has become out of the shadows and behind those high school gym. And it's now being sold legally in cannabis stores and dispensaries across the country. Recreational use is now legal in 19 states. While 36 states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana.
Marijuana has become more widely accepted and available. Marijuana use has doubled over the past decade. And now with legalization a plethora of products have hit the market, including everything from candy to brownies to energy drinks.
Regardless of how it's consumed, studies have really shown that marijuana impairs critical thinking and abilities necessary to drive safely including cognitive, motor coordination, judgment of course, and reaction times.
So today we're going to talk about how has legalization and subsequent increase in the use impacted our roads today. What should families, employers, parents, policymakers, know to prioritize this driver safety? How might the changing legal status of marijuana and changing roadway risk, impact insurability and insurance?
So we have some great guests today to break it all down for us, and to discuss these topics.
Slide, Speakers. Four profile images. Text, Joan Woodward, Executive Vice President, Public Policy, President, Travelers Institute, Travelers. Bill Zielinski, Senior Vice President, Product Management & Analytics, Personal Insurance; Travelers. Matt Moore, Senior Vice President, Highway Loss Data Institute. Christy Thiems, Senior Director, American Property Casualty Insurance Association.
First joining me from Travelers, is my terrific colleague Bill Zielinski who's senior Vice President for Personal Insurance, Product Management, and Analytics at Travelers.
Bill joined us in 2010. Is responsible for the day to day profit and growth of our $10 billion plus Personal Insurance business, managing national underwriting products across all product lines. So thank you for joining me Bill.
Also today we have from HLDI, Senior Vice President Matt Moore who oversees the collection of vehicle information, the production of lost data, and all research, including the legalization of recreational marijuana, and its impact on the roads. Matt is the author of HLDIs recent report on the effects of legalization on the roadway safety.
And lastly joining us from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association to lend her expertise on marijuana and the insurance industry, is senior Director Christy Thiems. Christy is the author of a recent white paper on cannabis and the insurance industry.
So before we kick off with our speakers, I want to get you the audience involved. So with a few polling questions. So you're going to see these pop up on your screen right now. And just go ahead and click to answer the question.
So first question, is there a cannabis store or marijuana dispensary in or near your hometown? Do you see this driving down the street every day, walking around is it in your hometown? Yes, no, or you're not sure you're just not aware or you're not looking for it.
So this is all off the record folks. We're not collecting this data, just for our little webinar today. So yes, no, or you're unsure. And let's see those results. OK, so more than 50% of us say yes, there is a store dispensary near you. About 14% of they're not sure.
So that's a lot of people. Matt, over 50% of our group today, which are thousands of people who have signed up for this webinar, have access to a dispensary. Does that surprise you?
Not at all.
And it's, to some extent it's disappointing. So--
There you have it.
Lots of access out there. OK and that's really only the 19 states that do have it right now in terms of the recreational use. So that's a lot of our audience. OK let's move on to the session. And I'm going to turn over the program today to my good friend Bill Zielinski who with Matt Moore is going to really show you some shocking data, really troubling data and then we're going to break it all down for you as well. So Bill.
Slide, Marijuana. Video feed, Bill Zielinski.
Excellent, thank you Joan. And good morning or good afternoon to everybody on the call depending on where you are. I know we have pretty good attendance, so I'm guessing we have a couple of different time zones represented.
I'm really excited to be part of the panel with Matt and Christy today. I think it's going to be a really exciting conversation and look forward to the questions as well. We'll begin with really hitting the basics, marijuana or cannabis we go to the start of the presentation. Thank you.
Slide, Marijuana Legalization in North America. Bullet points.
So marijuana or cannabis is a recreational or a medicinal drug, we'll go through some details in a moment. But medical use was really first approved in California Circa 1996, by voter approval of proposition 215. And since then, there's been a lot of movement towards state level legalization, which I know Joan had mentioned.
Marijuana contains literally hundreds of chemicals--chemical compounds, so very complex product. While sources vary, estimates range from 400 to 600. But one of the key components is known as, and I'll say it slowly, delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC which is what we'll use in the presentation going forward. And that really is the primary psychoactive or mind-altering chemical that is a subject of much of the analysis that we'll talk about in a second.
Slide, Bar chart, U.S. Residents age 18 plus supporting marijuana legalization. The vertical axis is percent from 0 to 80. The horizontal is years from 2009 to 2020.
So as we think about marijuana over the long term, and we started to touch on this a little bit. Really attitudes around the drug have changed quite substantially. And even as we look at the last decade, and this is based on a Gallup survey.
In 2020 68% of US residents age 18 plus supported marijuana legalization. And that was up from 44% in 2009. If you go back even farther 30 years from that, that number was just 25%. So a pretty substantial change in attitudes around legalization.
Slide, Color coded map of North America. Text, Marijuana Legalization in North America.
And moving to the next slide, we can really see how that changing attitude has been reflected in policy. And you know first Canada, the big blue you know country to the top of the slide here, was the first node American country to legalize marijuana at a national level. And that was done in October of 2018.
As we look at the current state of US legalization, 36 states plus D.C. approved for medical use. Recreational use now approved 19. So there really is a broad-based movement to legalize marijuana. But it does remain illegal at the federal level, which is important to remember.
Now considering those data points on attitudes and legalization at the state level--we'll go to the next slide, please.
Slide, Bar graph. Text, U.S. Residents age 12 plus who reported using marijuana during the past month.
It's perhaps not surprising to see utilization increasing over time. From 2008 to 2019 so just over a decade.
When you look at residents 12 and over, who reported using marijuana over the past month it's doubled. From 6% to 12%, so a pretty substantial increase. And this data is taken based on a 2020 substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report.
Slide, U.S. Estimated revenues from marijuana sales. Bar graph, California Estimated Sales Tax Revenue.
Looking at a different lens, state tax revenue which actually helped me get the $18 billion question up front from Joan Wright. State tax revenues really provide a clear lens into how legalization has translated into legal use.
Tax approaches definitely vary by state, again not surprising to see some variation by state. They can range from per weight, it can be an excise tax, it can be a sales tax, and certainly a varying degrees in terms of the tax level.
But through those various mechanisms, legal marijuana sales have contributed $7.9 billion to tax revenues over the years. And we have a little more detail here on California, which really is a single largest contributor to that.
California voters approved an initiative regulating marijuana for adult use in November of 16. The first adult use stores began to open in January of 2018. And since then you can see the sales tax revenue moving from $400 million in 2018 to over 1 billion in 2020. Now certainly, that reflects some of the gradual transition from what we'll call gray markets. But also, certainly reflective of demand, we believe.
Slide, Marijuana Potency. Line graph, Average THC percent concentration of DEA specimens by year.
Now before we transition to studies that really talk about the implications to Highway Safety, it is important to note that the potency is measured again by that THC concentration has really increased over the years.
And this study albeit a little bit aged, helps us to understand the THC concentration and specimens that were gathered by the DEA. So from 1995 to 2014 those levels have increased nearly three times, from 4% to 12%.
And when we look at legal marijuana there definitely are varying levels of THC concentration. But in many cases, those can be well above 12%. So just important for us to sort of level set on the history attitudes a little bit of utilization and also some of the potency that we're seeing in marijuana and how that's changed over the years.
With that, I will now hand it over to Matt to walk through the analysis that was completed by the Highway Loss Data Institute or HLDI for shorthand.
Slide, HLDI Analysis of Marijuana Legalization. Video feed, Matt Moore.
Thanks much Bill. So folks, we're going to actually, as we progress through the presentation, we're going to be talking about three separate evaluations done by both the IIHS and HLDI. And as we step through these things, you're going to say well, didn't I see this slide already didn't I already see this evaluation?
And it's important to keep in mind that, strength of the scientific process comes from not any one single study, but from multiple studies conducted on the same issue, in different ways doing different tests, doing multiple tests. And the strength of the conclusion comes from a preponderance of evidence.
So that's part of why we're going to be sharing the types of things we're going to be sharing today. Is that the importance of doing these multiple tests. So as we advance through the presentation, and go to the next slide.
Slide, Bar graph, Colorado versus control states.
Here, we're looking at an evaluation that HLDI conducted using insurance data, using collision claims. And we were looking at how frequently collision claims were filed in the states listed here. We're looking at Colorado, relative to these control states. In this case, we were looking at Colorado relative to Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming.
And as you can see, first bar, looking at Colorado relative to all of those controls we see a statistically significant increase in collision claim frequency of over 7%. In addition to that, when we look at Colorado relative to the individual controls, we see a comparable result. Although the result in Wyoming is a little bit lower.
So multiple tests all telling us the same thing, that the legalization of marijuana for recreational use is associated with or correlated with an increase in collision claim frequencies. And of course, that's a relevant metric for the insurance industry, but it's also to some extent a leading indicator from a Highway Safety perspective.
Collision claims are also often associated with crashes, sometimes very a dangerous injury producing crashes.
Slide, Bar graph, Washington versus control states.
We're going to take a look next at an evaluation of--here we're looking at Washington State.
Washington was the second state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. We compared Washington to Idaho and Montana. As you can see here looking at Washington relative to both states, an increase of 5.6% in claim frequency, some variability in terms of the individual effect. But again, same answer, an increase of risk associated with the legalization of marijuana.
Slide, Bar graph, Nevada versus control states.
We're going to next look at Nevada. And a fairly comparable result to the result that we got for Washington State. Here the overall effect was increased risk, increase of collision claim frequency of 5.4% with little variability between the two control states.
Slide, Bar graph, Oregon versus control states.
Now as we advance, here's sort of the first clinker in the analysis. And again, underscoring the importance of doing multiple tests and doing multiple tests at different points in time at subsequent points in time.
Here we're looking at Oregon relative to Idaho and Montana, and we get a fairly different answer. Not only does this answer vary from the other states we evaluated, it is a different answer than we got the last time we did this study.
And so it's an important thing to keep in mind is that over time these effects can, and do change. And that could be perhaps due to changes in behavior or other things in the environment and the driving environment we're unable to control for.
Slide, Changes in collision claim frequency associated with marijuana sales by time range. Bar graph.
So as we move on, this was an attempt to try to understand the effect of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use on claim frequencies over time. And the very interesting thing is if you look at Colorado, Washington, and Oregon what you can see is, as we look at individual time slices we can see a fairly consistent reduction in the measured increase in claim frequency.
In contrast, Nevada, which in the HLDI analysis was one of the most recent states that we studied, there we can see an increase in effect. And to some extent that's consistent with what we initially saw with Colorado when they first legalized.
So again, it just underscores the importance of consistently or continuously monitoring and evaluating until you're able to come up with firm and strong conclusions. But with all of these estimates considered, it's clear that at the onset of legalization risk definitely increase, and it does persist for a considerable period of time.
Next slide, please.
Slide, HLDI Data Volume. Map of US and pie chart.
Back to you Bill.
Yeah great. Yeah before we get into additional studies, you know I really just wanted to highlight the essential role that HLDI and IIHS play in understanding environmental dynamics. For context, there are over 200 million private passenger vehicles in the US.
And based on the latest and best market share analysis Travelers is 9, right. It's the ninth carrier in the country in private passenger auto out of 100s, we're proud of that. But that gives us purview into about 3% of the industry data.
And given HLDIs broad-based carrier membership, they have access to 80% of the industry data. Which really puts them in a much better position to identify statistically relevant insights through some of the studies that you've just seen.
Slide, Pie chart, Collision claim count. HLDI 98%, Travelers 2%.
Now, if we take it one step further, HLDI has dramatically more claim data in the states that Matt had just talked through. In the case of Colorado 35 times, Nebraska 45 times, Utah 55 times, and I'll just say exponentially more in Wyoming.
And you know, I want to share these metrics that I think it puts a really fine point on that essential role that HLDI plays in allowing the industry to support highway safety efforts. Put simply, HLDI is in a unique position to analyze losses, human economic, right through the scientific study of vast sets of insurance data from its member carriers, and no one carrier could do this alone.
So with that point. I will turn it back over to Matt.
Slide, Effects of marijuana legalization on crashes.
Thanks Bill. As I was saying, it's important to do different tests related to the same subject. And in this case, we first--we've just talked about changes in collision claim frequency.
The next thing that we did, our experts in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did an evaluation of police reported crashes.
Now keep in mind that there are many, many collision claims which never get reported to the police. You know single vehicle crashes, folks backing in the polls, or making contact with their garages, and things like that, those things never get reported to the police.
So there's lots and lots of claims in the insurance data that don't make it into other data pools that are used to evaluate crash risk. And so we wanted to use police reported crashes in these same states, because police reported crashes are often more severe.
And in doing that analysis we're also able to look at crashes, isolate those crashes with associated injuries, and we're also able to focus on fatal crashes. Because from a Highway Safety perspective, those are probably the more important crashes.
So we studied those same states, we added California to the mix. And--but a very similar analytical approach. So we'll take a look at the first set of results here.
Slide, Effective dates of marijuana legalization. Chart.
Actually, we're going to look at the dates that states legalized.
So as I mentioned, Colorado was the first. And you can see here there's an interesting from an analytical perspective, one of the interesting things is, this varying gaps between recreational use became legal and when retail sales became legal.
And an important distinction is that in the next slide that we're going to look at, there was an evaluation of both the time period when things were legal--became legal--marijuana became legal for use in contrast to when sales became legal. In the HLDI evaluations we only looked at the time period pre and post the onset of legal recreational sales.
The next slide, please.
Slide, Changes in crash rates after legalized marijuana use by state. Bar graph.
So again, different states, different measures, many measurements. The bars in yellow, we're looking at crashes that--changes in crash rates for crashes that generated injuries.
And as you can see, just like we had in the insurance data, there's variability in the results. Colorado posted the highest effect almost 18% increase in crashes that produce injury. Oregon, the highest effect in terms of increases in fatal crashes. In contrast to Nevada, where both injury producing crashes and fatal crashes were estimated to have decreased. So some variability in the results.
But if we advance and take a look at the next slide.
Slide, Changes in crash rates. Study states versus comparison states. Bar graph.
What we can see is that in aggregate when we put all of those data together and do a single test against those data, overall, the there was a statistically significant increase in injury producing crashes of almost 6%. We're also estimating an increase of in fatal crashes of just under 4%.
But as you can see there's also some variability in terms of when we do the test, do we test for just when recreational use became legal, in contrast to when retail sales became legal. But in context with the HLDI results and what we would say is that there's definitely an increase in crash risk associated with the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
Slide, Marijuana use and crash risk.
Bill, oops, sorry this is still me. Next slide, please.
Slide, Data collection sites. Oregon Health and Science University Portland Oregon 2017-2019. University of California Davis Medical Center, Sacramento California, 2018-2019. Denver Health Medical Center, Denver Colorado, 2018-2019.
But the final thing we're going to talk about today is, neither of those studies looked directly at are or is marijuana causing crashes. What we're evaluating is there--what we had evaluated, is there a correlation between the legalization--the dates that marijuana became legal and some metric of crash risk?
So we partnered with the medical centers that you see listed here, in order to attempt to see if we could more closely evaluate whether or not the use of marijuana is directly related to crash risk.
Slide, Participant demographics age, crash cases versus medical control. Pie charts.
So what we did was, we looked at folks who came into emergency rooms. And the study population was a population of drivers who had crashed. And we compared those drivers to quote unquote control drivers or control population, and these were folks that were in those same emergency rooms not as the result of a crash, or not as a result of some kind of misfortune which may have been related to impairment.
Crashed drivers, 50 plus years 35%, 18-29 years 29%, 30-49 years 36%. Control drivers, 50 plus years 31%, 18-29 years 25%, 30-49 years 44%.
This is the distribution of ages, and as you can see and to me this is somewhat interesting. The distribution of ages is similar. However, when we take a look at the distribution of genders on the next slide,
Slide, Participant demographics, sex. Crashed drivers, Male 60%, Female 40%. Control drivers, Male 42%, Female 58%.
what we can see is there were more men in the crash population. And that's very consistent when we look at say, fatal crashes. Men are overrepresented in the crash population. And very much over-represented in terms of the most severe crashes.
Slide, Self-reported substance use within 8 hours. Crash cases versus medical controls, Pie charts. Crashed drivers, marijuana only 4%, marijuana and alcohol 3%, alcohol only 11%, neither 82%. Control drivers, marijuana only 9%, marijuana and alcohol 0%, alcohol only 3%, neither 88%.
So if we look at the data, it was interesting. One of the first things that we did when we were evaluating these folks was, we asked them whether or--these both the study and control populations, whether or not they were impaired.
And as you can see more folks in the crashed population admitted to being impaired than in the control population. Interesting to note 9% of the control population reported that they had used marijuana prior to being in the emergency room.
Slide, Lab results, crash cases versus medical controls. Pie charts.
As we move on, what we can see and interesting here and just focusing on marijuana which you can see is only 13% of the crash drivers tested positive for marijuana. In contrast to the control population, where 16% had tested positive.
So to some extent there's not a big smoking gun here in terms of the relationship between marijuana use and crash risk. But if we take a broader look at this and we combine marijuana and alcohol use. Those who tested positive for both marijuana and alcohol and were just marijuana, the population of folks using marijuana was slightly higher.
And the other interesting takeaway and I think it underscores the importance of the fact that impairment is still a big, big issue. You can see that alcohol 6% of the crash population in contrast to the control population where it was just 2%.
So although there's not a real smoking gun here and answer to the $19 billion question about the relationship between marijuana and crash risk, I think that the study although it doesn't scream that marijuana is a problem, I believe it screams that impairment is still a big, big problem.
Slide, Percent of traffic deaths involving alcohol impaired driving, 1982-2019. Line graph.
And as we move on, and we take a look at alcohol deaths in the driving population. What we can see is, we've made a lot of improvements over time, between 1982 and 1999 a big decrease in alcohol impaired drivers.
However, it's important to point out as we progress in the presentation, that alcohol the drivers who test positive for alcohol or if test impaired are still 28% of driving fatalities, that's a big, big number. And I think our tendency is to think that we've solved the alcohol problem and we haven't.
And I think an important takeaway from this slide in the context of the last slide on the evaluation of the relationship between marijuana and crash risk, is that if we simply focus on impaired driving or enforcing the alcohol laws that we have on the books, and use those mechanisms that are in place to enforce alcohol, we can probably help reduce some of the crashes, some of these very serious crashes that are marijuana related.
Slide, Measuring marijuana impairment remains a challenge.
Is a big problem that we face, is that the science really isn't settled in terms of the relationship between marijuana and impairment. At the start of the webinar, Joan was talking about some of the problems related to marijuana, and those are all true. But the problem is, we don't know exactly what the relationship is between any of those impairments and tested THC levels.
And additionally, unlike marijuana, we don't have a good rapid test that we can use, that police officers can use in the field. So that concludes my piece of the presentation and I'm going to turn it over to Christy.
Slide, Marijuana Impairment Testing and Research challenges. American Property Casualty Insurance Association. Video feed, Christy Thiems.
Thank you, Matt. And Joan, thank you for using your platform to address this important issue. As Matt mentioned marijuana impairment is not like alcohol impairment. And many people are not aware of that, or maybe aware of why. With marijuana there is not a clear correlation between impairment and the amount of THC in a user's system.
And the amount of THC can actually peak before a user feels impairment. And it may actually remain in their system much longer up to 30 days, so long after impairment is subsided. This means that a positive drug test is not an indicator of current impairment, necessarily.
Additionally, the length of time it takes a user to experience impairment can vary based on several factors, including how the marijuana is consumed. For example, edibles, gummy bears, brownies all that new fun stuff, takes longer for the body to process than smoking or inhaling the THC or the marijuana.
And there's presently no objective standard for marijuana impairment. Consequently, there's also no reliable scientific test to test for marijuana impairment. So how do we develop an impairment standard?
We need high quality scientific research using marijuana that's commercially available to users, and where they can legally purchase it. Unfortunately, there's a number of barriers. Due in large part, due to marijuana's schedule one classification under the Controlled Substances Act.
So in order to begin this type of study, researchers need to complete a lengthy application process, which includes approval from several federal agencies, including the FDA the DEA and NIDA, which is the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Once they're approved, then to secure their marijuana to use in the study they have to obtain it from NIDA through their single source at the University of Mississippi. And unfortunately, this marijuana is not at all representative of what is available to consumers in states where marijuana is legal.
It contains a much lower amount of THC. For comparison, the NIDA product generally provides-- generally contains 12% THC by weight. Compared to states where marijuana is legal consumers can purchase flower that contains 20% to 30% THC and concentrates that contain 60% to 90% THC.
The DEA is beginning the process on adding additional growers--authorized growers. But it's been in the works for some time and we're not quite sure when we're going to get there.
Slide, Marijuana Federal Legislative Activity.
So moving on to federal legislation.
This is--this is one of the key advocacy points for APCIA. Particularly, to push for working through these barriers for research so we can get an impact--we can develop an impairment standard, so we have something to measure.
And so if you see on this slide, there are a few provisions in the--there were two provisions in the Infrastructure Bill passed by the US Senate.
The first one, required a report to be created investigating these barriers to research. So that everyone was aware of how hard it is to do this sort of research.
The second, encouraged states--encourage states that have legalized marijuana to develop public education programs. We find that people still aren't aware that driving while high is as dangerous as driving while drunk or driving while texting. In fact, some longtime users will tell you that they think they drive safer when they're high, which is not in fact, the case.
Marijuana Provisions in 2022 Appropriations Bill.
There were also provisions in the Appropriations Bill that includes support for research. That includes research on the health effects of marijuana, marijuana's impact on public health, and the development of an impairment standard.
It also provides support for increased law enforcement training, that would train officers to be better able to detect impairment until we get until we're able to establish an impairment standard. The last item on the slide, does not relate to impairment. But it does relate to the insurance industry.
A common question that we receive from states that have legalized marijuana is, how can we encourage carriers to provide insurance to our states legal marijuana industry? And the key obstacle keeping insurers from entering into these markets is the schedule one classification under the Controlled Substances Act.
Again, it makes use and sale of marijuana illegal at the federal level. And that doesn't have any--it doesn't make any allowances for medical marijuana and doesn't make any allowances for states that have legalized marijuana.
The federal criminal statutes further expand that, so that it includes the transmission or transportation of funds that are known to have been derived from the distribution of marijuana. So say, if a marijuana dispensary wants to buy insurance. So this would put insurance companies at risk of federal prosecution for what would be considered aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise.
And this is why there's a great deal of interest in the SAFE Banking Act, that you see there at the bottom of the slide. It was originally established for banks only, but the insurance industry advocated for its inclusion as well.
So now the Bill proposes a safe harbor from federal prosecution for financial services providers seeking to provide services to the legal marijuana industry. It's passed the House twice and been held up in the Senate.
There is also the CLAIM act which was introduced in the Senate. But that is based primarily for insurance and doesn't necessarily include all of the other banks and financial service providers, as they say banking act does.
Slide, A.P.C.I.A. Public Awareness and Consumer Education. Website screenshots and articles.
And just to wrap up, I would like to highlight some of APCIAs consumer education pieces that we've done. APCIA and its members are concerned with the safety and protection of consumers. So on here you'll see just a few of the items that we've produced that highlight the aspects of marijuana legalization and road safety.
We provide social media messaging on all platforms to encourage safe driving behaviors. We provide social media messaging and graphics for our members and partners. Which includes data, including safety data like we saw from HLDI today.
And we also work with media outlets. As you see there's an op-ed there that was produced for July 4th in fort, reminding drivers to be safe. And not use marijuana or alcohol and then get behind the wheel.
And finally, we generate newsletters and education materials to share with policymakers on the Hill. And we use those most recently to support the Infrastructure Bill. And that's the end of my slide. So I'll turn it back to Joan.
Video feeds full screen.
All right Christy, Bill and Matt that was just fantastic. Really, really excellent research and data for us to distill and chat about. So let's get right to it. We have a number of audience questions that have come in. I'm going to take a few first.
So Matt, let's talk about your research you showed clearly an uncertain effect of the crash risk with the use of pot. Yet, common sense, tells us all that reaction times are slowed with use of the substance.
So is this a testing issue? Does it vary from person to person? I mean in the alcohol world we have a certain level of alcohol that is considered safe or considered unsafe. Is there a certain level and how do we get to that testing, how do we crack that nut?
Joan you're 100% right. So the science is fairly settled with regard to the relationship between alcohol as tested in the blood and impairment. We know and understand that there is some variability in terms of state laws and alcohol levels. But in general, it's alcohol's bad from a driving perspective, and the law is settled there.
Big issue with marijuana is that we can test positive for THC days, weeks after having used. So there's not a good test, because of the persistence of THC in the system. It complicates the testing issue; it complicates any study that relies on testing. Because someone can quote unquote, test positive and have had used the substance days or weeks before.
So you know what's needed--we need a good scientific test that we can all believe in. And there's lots of work going on in that space. But at this point, we still don't have a good reliable test.
One of the best things or one of the things that's more commonly used today, is police officers specifically trained for the purpose of identifying folks who are under the influence of marijuana. They're referred to as, drug recognition experts. But lots of training involved, lots of cost involved in that.
And in the same thing with regard to coming up with a scientific test. It's going to require a lot of money. And at this point, you know perhaps if we put a moratorium on additional states legalizing, and don't allow additional legalization until the science and the test is settled, perhaps that would get us there much quicker. But I don't think that's going to happen.
OK very, very interesting. One of your findings that really shocks me and builds on my last question here is that, many people believe that marijuana use really does not affect their ability to drive.
So isn't the big part of the challenge here to making people understand the risks, as you said. I mean you can't really compare the alcohol versus the THC in your system, in terms of how long it would last but understanding those risks.
And is it just an educational campaign? You obviously said some of the states are putting money towards their police force to identify that. Are most states doing that, the ones that have legalized it or just a few right now?
It's interesting. As I understand it, Colorado is leader of the league with regard to drug recognition experts. But it's--there is a lot of interest in figuring out how to enforce these laws. Because there is broad recognition that marijuana is an impairing substance. All those billions of dollars aren't being spent on a psychoactive substance that doesn't have an effect.
And it's when trying to think about why that final study, that I shared doesn't show a sort of conclusive link between marijuana use and crash risk. I think one of the things we need to consider is, there's always multiple factors with regard to crash risk.
And on one hand you know there's what does the substance--what effect does the substance have on the likelihood that you will engage in behaviors that might put you in a crash critical situation versus how well will you handle a crash critical situation.
And NHTSA did some simulator studies, where they dosed drivers with alcohol, marijuana or alcohol and marijuana. And one of the really interesting findings from that was they found that folks that were just dosed with alcohol the amount of speeding went up by over 170%. Whereas those who were dosed with alcohol no change. By contrast those or those who are dosed with marijuana no change.
Those who were dosed with marijuana were 40% more likely to be driving below the speed limit. In contrast to no change in behavior for those who were dosed with alcohol in terms of their likelihood of being below the speed limit.
So if you think about the extent to which speed contributes just looking at that one aspect of driving, speed increases the likelihood that you'll be in a crash critical situation. And then if you think about the study on injury risk, decreased speed also decreases the likelihood that you will be injured if you do get in a crash. And so it's a complex issue, and drugs impact different people in different ways.
Yeah, Yeah. And it's very uneven right in terms of what's in those substances. You just don't know sometimes, or all the time you really don't know right what's actually in them. You have to trust the people you're buying them from I suppose.
So Christy let's go to you. Let's talk about what's in them. Many consumers really are unaware of those innocuous looking candies, and cookies, and I guess beverages that are sold in cannabis shops now. And they have a higher concentration, I believe you said, and your blood absorption level is faster. Talk to us about that a bit, because I think people don't realize that.
Well and I think you're right Joan. Marijuana is available in so many different forms now. And also, it's much more potent than it was back in the '70s when other people when--but when it was still illegal and people were using it in the gym underneath the bleachers. But so yes, it's a higher concentration.
And each type of way that you consume it, is processed differently by your body. So it's sort of like the drinks, the smoking can take effect quicker. But the edibles like the brownies, the cookies, the gummy bears, those take longer.
So you can't necessarily--even experienced users have indicated that they're overwhelmed sometimes. You hear these stories when people first try edibles when they don't kick in right away, so they eat more and more. And then all of a sudden it kicks in and they're too far gone, so to speak.
So I think from a roadway safety standpoint part of the concern also, is that if you're using edibles maybe the other people you're at the party with don't know it. And if it hasn't kicked in yet they don't know to stop you from getting behind the wheel. And so there's a little bit of personal responsibility of knowing that it's never safe to get behind the wheel if you've used marijuana in any form.
OK terrific. Bill I'm going to shift the focus a little bit and talk about insurance just a little bit. So you know it's legal to consume in these various settings and scenarios. And states operating a vehicle still is a criminal offense under impairment. So how do insurers currently handle claims involving marijuana impaired drivers? Walk us through that.
Yeah. And I'll take it from both the personal insurance and commercial insurance angles. First from a personal insurance standpoint, policies do not exclude coverage for driving under the influence. Whether that's alcohol, marijuana or other controlled substances.
So we don't view this issue really any differently than alcohol and drunk driving. The same policy coverage and provisions would apply. We would handle the claim, we'd consider that claim experience and alignment with our filed underwriting pricing. But to be clear we don't condone driving under the influence.
From the commercial standpoint, employers definitely need to be aware. And we talked about, it is still illegal at a federal level. so Federal DOT rules which center around commercial driver's license, it is still considered an illegal substance.
So this means that anyone with a commercial driver's license or CDL falls under the Federal Drug rules regardless of the state they operate in, whether it's legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal use.
And if we suspect that use of marijuana may have contributed to an accident, we would investigate that loss in the same manner again that we would investigate a loss with alcohol environment involvement.
Right OK so what is the insurance industry--what are they doing really to mitigate the drug driving if you will, out there?
Yeah, I can start, and I'm sure others can jump in maybe Christy. Again, you know we wanted to hit it really in the presentation. We're big supporters of HLDI and IIHS. I think scientific studies like the ones that were shared today, are really essential in developing the facts right to inform our policymakers on implications, educate consumers on highway safety risks and risk factors.
And they can also these facts can also help us with advocacy groups law enforcement activities, et cetera. You know Travelers, certainly we try to leverage this information and other information wherever we can to educate our consumers and our distribution partners.
One example within our Telematics program, we have an ability to push digital advice around safe driving. So those are mechanisms for us to help educate our consumer base and the general consumers.
And I know from a business insurance standpoint with risk control, we really focus on helping our insurance to understand where various laws apply. For example, that Federal DOT rule that I'd mentioned. And also, in implementing comprehensive safety policies and employment practices.
Terrific, that's great Bill. Christy, let's get back to you for a second. Cannabis is still illegal at the federal level right, and you're talking about all the ways you're working with Congress. Which is amazing to hear how much work you've done so far to get this in these bills, to allow the insurability of this industry, this $20 billion industry probably more every year or so.
So how is it going to happen? Do you believe it'll happen in the next year? And are these dispensaries in places in the states that it's legal or are they operating without insurance on their buildings and on their products right now?
There are some small state carriers that are comfortable picking this up. I think there's a little bit of a concern also with rule crossing state lines and that sort of thing. But the until--I find it really interesting with this whole with the whole marijuana issue.
In certain cases, it's very black and white, right. And in this one is, as long as it's illegal at the federal level it's a problem you know it's a problem for the insurance industry. It's a problem for the insurance industry to get into that market.
I think there probably are a lot of carriers who would be interested in being in the market but while it's still illegal there's very little that can be done. This being a second time that the Safe Banking Act has passed, there is a lot of optimism that we might see something happen in the next year.
I think at some point--I think some point something's going to have to happen. There was a story about and about somebody who owned a dispensary and had to go pay his taxes in California and he could only pay it in cash. And so he had to drive with a backpack of like $3 million to the state office so he could pay his taxes.
So this financial services issue needs to get resolved in the insurance industry is a part of that. So we're optimistic. Not sure if it's going to happen this year, but hopefully we'll see something soon.
OK now, we're going to go rapid fire to audience questions. So thank you for putting so many in the Q&A to our audience. Ronnie Compton with the Insurance Services Group in Washington State says he's interested Matt, to know more about the actual devices that are being used to prove someone is driving high. Is there a is there a test kit of some sort that states are using especially I guess, in Washington?
In some places there has been some success with field tests of saliva. But again, the science just is not settled. There's not a device that is widely accepted that would be on par with the breathalyzer used for alcohol.
OK another question actually for you Matt. What is the impact of roadway safety to foresee with companies such as Amazon requesting that drug screening no longer include marijuana? They're testing their drivers for other drugs but no longer marijuana. What do you think about that?
Not good. It's an impairing substance. And kind of setting up structures or policies that enable people to use impairing substances while operating motor vehicles can't be good.
You know I'd be happy to jump in here. I recently read an article about that. And by the way some of the numbers are staggering, right. Amazon, I think, as of June had 950,000 employees. I thought we had a lot with 30,000 of Travelers, so quite a large number. And yeah that change in policy is probably a little bit troubling.
But just tying back to understanding the laws, if you read underneath the headlines it specifically excludes roles where you have to do that type of drug testing. And so we know a component of their workforce are on the roads are subject to those CDL requirements. So I think that's a little texture underneath it, but certainly an interesting change in approach.
OK Christy this one's for you. So Laura Holshouser with W3 Insurance is asking, we're always asked about hiring employees who carry a medical marijuana card, what are your thoughts on that?
Well this would definitely be an area to review with a local employment attorney. The laws surrounding this issue vary widely from states that require you to allow someone you know who uses medical marijuana to even do it on the premises. There's only like one or two states that does that.
Then there are other states that don't force you to hire or allow you to terminate once you find out. So it does vary and it's a rapidly evolving situation. There have been cases working their way through the courts, so it can kind of change at any minute.
So there are--it's one of those things you want to check out with an employment attorney. But I think probably the marijuana card maybe not an issue. But like you're not--most states will say, you don't have to allow it on your premises, and things like that. So, but definitely check with the employment attorney.
OK another question here about distracted driving and marijuana. So Matt I guess this is for you. In your research did you--was distracted driving considered in a correlation to these cases too or you didn't control for distracted driving?
We did not control for distracted driving in those studies.
OK is there any studies out there to show people who are high are more likely to be on their phones or nothing you've seen yet?
And we know just in general that one of the impairments that comes with the use of marijuana is decreased undivided attention. But there's no studies that I'm aware of indicating that marijuana leads to an increase in distracted driving.
OK someone asked, should we be more worried about people driving high or driving drunk?
Yes, all of the above right. OK Martha Vargas here with Vargas agency in Colorado. She asked, Colorado is trying to start marijuana delivery how do you think insurance will work in this situation? So it’s kind of like DoorDash, you can call up your DoorDash person and get delivered marijuana? How's that going to work with a car insured. Bill do you--
I might refer to Christy on this one. I studied the nuances in Personal Insurance, but this one is a little bit beyond me, Christy.
That's one of those things where I think at the outset. And I know there are a couple of states that are already doing that. So but I do think your comparison is probably accurate that it's compared to a DoorDash or an Uber sort of thing. Where it's more of an independent contractor situation.
So I do think there may be a personalized insurance issue coming up on that one. But at this point it's one of those details that doesn't always get worked out at the front end and you're going to have to deal with it on the back end.
OK a couple of people just are commenting marijuana is not going away so the insurance industry, the banking industry, and society in general need to live with it. So I want to be fair and just read the comments that are coming in.
I don't think there was a question associated with that. But I think the goal really is to try to mitigate and raise awareness. I think education campaigns similar to what we have done at Travelers with our Every Second Matters (registered trademark), distracted driving campaign.
And so as Bill, you and I take up the mantle of this is a societal problem, and we have the convening power to raise awareness, I think we absolutely are doing that certainly with this webinar today but we will in the future.
So it is our responsibility and you can put that in the Corporate ESG Bucket, that we feel responsible to raise this and talk about it for young people as well. So OK Matt, is there anything else you want to address in terms of your research and where you're headed with your research and next steps.
Next steps, we're going to continue to evaluate, conduct tests, look at ways that we can study this issue in order to try to come up with a comprehensive understanding of what the relationship is between marijuana and crash risk.
And we'll continue to sound the call around the risks associated with the problem. Not just the problem of marijuana impairment, but alcohol and marijuana impairment. And polysubstance abuse not just marijuana and alcohol, but other forms of drug use are on the rise as well. And if we want to take a big bite out of the pie that is the crash death problem, this is a problem that has to be addressed.
And actually, just leading into kind of some of my closing remarks. We're going to have a webinar on November the third about opioid crisis and the opioid crisis was accelerated during the pandemic. A lot more people took that up which is very, very concerning. So do you have any thoughts Matt or Bill or Christy about opioid use and in roadway safety.
Well, I know from a Worker's Comp standpoint, there's been a lot of talk of potentially even using marijuana to treat opioid use disorder. And that's another one of those things where the science is still out there. And I'm not sure that we want to jump from opioids into marijuana, when we don't necessarily have the research to back that up.
Agreed, agreed. OK we have come to our time here. And I wanted to I'm going to let our audience know about a couple of programs we have coming up, want to make sure you get registered for those they're really going to be quite interesting.
Slide, Text, Upcoming Webinars. October 6 – The Fight Against Cyber Crime – from Prevention to Prosecution with DOJ’s Edward Chang and Travelers’ Jeff Klenk. October 20 – The Tech-Enabled Insurance Claim Revolution with Travelers’ Senior Vice President Patrick Gee. October 27 – The Changing Risk Landscape: Underwriting for the quote “New Normal” end quote with Travelers’ Chief Underwriting Office Rick Keegan. November 3 – The Pandemic Era Opioid Crisis: Where are we now? How can we break the cycle? With Milken Institute’s Sabrina Spitalletta and Travelers’ Rich Ives.
But first let me thank Christy, Matt and Bill this has really been informative. And I would like to invite you back you know next year to talk about more research, and where we have gone with the legislation, et cetera. This is a very important topic for our industry. And so we will stay on top of it I will promise you that. So Bill, Christy, and Matt thank you for your thoughts and your expertise.
Now I just have up on our screen here, we have a number of really terrific programs coming up. First one, October the sixth we're going to talk about cyber-crime. And we have a terrific department of justice attorney to come and talk about prosecution.
Our CEO Alan Schnitzer was invited to the White House by President Biden and sat down with other technology CEOs just a few weeks ago to talk about the rise of cyber-crime in our country during the pandemic with people working remotely. Claims are up, we see it every single day and the cyber product that we sell. So come join us on October the sixth.
Then, October 20th going to speak with Pat Gee he's everything technology with the claim process. So drones, the use of drones and other technology for commercial business insurance as well as personal insurance. So you don't want to miss that.
And then October 27th we're going to host our Chief Underwriting Officer my friend Rick Keegan. And you don't want to miss this if your insurance industry. Rick is going to talk to you about how we assess risk with the new normal, post-pandemic. And Rick is a terrific person to hear as he thinks about--talks about underwriting in our new normal.
And then, as I said November third, we're going to be joined by experts at the Milken Institute to talk about the opioid crisis in the US.
And then we have a lot more programming coming up this winter, which will announce in a few weeks.
So I invite everyone to connect with me on LinkedIn. I post lots of different updates about our programming. And again, take our survey of what you thought of this event in the chat. We really appreciate again our speakers, our partners. Stay safe out there my friends get your vaccines and we'll all hope to be back to normal shortly. Take care, have a good day.
Slide, Returns to title card. Text, High risk? Marijuana Legalization and Roadway Safety.
The cultural and legal landscape in 2021 has changed dramatically since medical marijuana use was first approved in California in 1996. Shifting attitudes about its use, as well as legalization for recreational use in 19 states and for medical use in 36 states, have transformed the drug’s image from that of a controlled substance to a more commonplace commodity. The proliferation of cannabis products – from edible options like candies, brownies, and energy drinks, to other options like cannabis plants, oils, supplements and more – parallels a doubling of use rates, a steady increase in the potency of the drug and record-high state or sales tax revenue from marijuana sales.
“There is a broad-based movement to legalize marijuana, but it does remain illegal at the federal level,” said Bill Zielinski, Senior Vice President, Product Management & Analytics, Personal Insurance at Travelers, who kicked off our panel punctuating these trends with some statistics:
- In 2020, 68% of U.S. residents over the age of 18 supported marijuana legalization, up from 44% in 2009 and 25% in 1979.
- U.S. residents 12 and over reporting they have used marijuana in the past month doubled from 6% in 2008 to 12% in 2018.
- Legal marijuana sales in California generated sales tax revenue of $400 million in 2018 and increased to over $1 billion in 2020.
Judging impairment after marijuana use is a challenge for consumers — and law enforcement
Zielinski called legalized marijuana “a very complex product.” As our panel discussed, understanding how the increasing use of marijuana impacts roadway safety starts with a better comprehension of the drug itself.
According to the stats presented by Zielinski, among the estimated 400 to 600 chemical compounds found in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. “That really is the primary psychoactive, or mind-altering, chemical,” added Zielinski. The concentration of THC, based on specimens collected by the Drug Enforcement Administration, has rapidly increased in cannabis products, tripling from 4% in 1998 to 12% in 2014. Potency varies drastically from product to product, and the method of consumption directly correlates to the amount of time it takes for users to feel the effect. For consumers then, the challenge begins in predicting exactly how, when and to what degree taking a marijuana product might impact their ability to drive safely, noted the APCIA’s Christy Thiems.
“Even experienced users have indicated that they’re overwhelmed sometimes … [the edibles] don’t kick in right away, so they eat more and more, and then all of a sudden, it kicks in and they’re too far gone,” remarked Thiems. So, the real danger for roadway safety is that the point at which an individual becomes “too high to drive” – where personal restraint or peer intervention may be necessary – remains unclear. “We find that people still aren’t aware that driving while high is as dangerous as driving drunk or driving while texting,” Thiems added.
Matt Moore of HLDI noted that unlike the relationship between blood alcohol level and driving impairment, the science on the effects of THC is not settled. The lack of a reliable, standardized test to measure THC levels or consensus on what the level of impairment might be is a “big issue with marijuana,” added Moore. He further noted that because THC persists in the blood, “it complicates the testing issue, and it complicates any study that relies on testing because someone can ‘test positive’ and have used the substance days or weeks before.”
For now, Moore contended that our best resource is a drug recognition expert, a police officer trained to identify individuals who might be under the influence of marijuana. Thiems added that personal responsibility is key, that individuals need to know that “it’s never safe to get behind the wheel if you’ve used marijuana in any form.”
Correlating risk between marijuana legalization, collision claims and crashes
Moore further contributed by summarizing the data comparing states where marijuana use is legal, including Colorado, Washington, Nevada and Oregon, relative to those where it remains illegal, including Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.
He explained that HLDI first looked to insurance data to identify the frequency of collision claims and found a clear indication that from the onset of cannabis legalization, collision claims tend to increase and persist for a considerable period of time thereafter.
Next, Moore showed how HLDI evaluated Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) data on police-reported crashes, isolating those in which injuries had occurred while focusing on fatal collisions. There, too, he noted “an increase in crash risk associated with the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.”
Finally, he presented IIHS’s analysis of emergency room visits comparing a population of drivers who had crashed to a control population who had not.
Moore concluded that even in the absence of a smoking gun, the research “screams that impairment is still a big problem,” adding that “the strength of the conclusion comes from a preponderance of evidence.”
Marijuana legalization and the insurance industry – the road ahead
The implications of marijuana legalization on the insurance industry are different when considering the personal versus commercial insurance.
Zielinski first noted that personal auto insurance policies do cover driving under the influence, whether that’s alcohol, marijuana, or another controlled substance. “We don’t view this issue really any differently than alcohol or drunk driving,” he said. On the commercial side, he added that insurers are most concerned with helping businesses control auto risks.
Thiems then tackled the complexities that exist for insurance and legal marijuana enterprises. At the federal level, marijuana has a Schedule I classification under the Controlled Substances Act and its use and sale remains illegal, she explained. She also went on to share that there are no federal allowances for medical marijuana, or states where marijuana is legal, and that transmission or transportation of funds known to derive from marijuana distribution are federal crimes.
“If a marijuana dispensary wants to buy insurance, the insurance company is at risk of federal prosecution for what would be considered aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise,” explained Thiems. She then noted that as of September 2021, the SAFE Banking Act (passed twice in the House and currently awaiting approval in the Senate) and the CLAIM Act (introduced in the Senate) could offer some of the first federal protections against prosecution for insurers providing coverage to the legal marijuana industry.
Thiems reiterated that the APCIA is focused on the safety and protection of consumers. Using federal legislation to push through barriers for cannabis research, public education and health studies is “one of the key advocacy points for the APCIA,” she said. She then cited two important provisions in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by the U.S. Senate as of September 2021, most notably, encouragement for states to develop public education programs to combat a lack of awareness over the dangers of driving high. She also touched upon provisions in the appropriation bill to support research on the health effects of marijuana, including the development of an impairment standard and support for law enforcement training.
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