High Risk? Marijuana Legalization and Roadway Safety
September 22, 2021 | Webinar
Americans can now purchase recreational marijuana products legally in 19 states. As availability becomes more widespread, researchers are studying its impact on everything from crime, cost and usage, to job creation and revenue generation. One important question is what legal marijuana use means for road safety. What should families, employers and policymakers know about marijuana use and roadway risks? How might these changing roadway risks impact insurance? Matt Moore from the Highway Loss Data Institute, Christy Thiems from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) and Bill Zielinski from Travelers joined together for an intriguing discussion around the latest findings on marijuana use and vehicle crash risk.
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High Risk? Marijuana Legalization and Roadway Safety
Joan Woodward: 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 the public policy and educational arm of Travelers. Welcome to Wednesday's 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 in 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 uh 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. Join our mailing list or email list, you can connect with me directly on LinkedIn or watch our past webinar replays and we invite you to do all those things.
You'll see in the link also a brief survey about this program so it takes just a minute, if you would complete it, it really does help inform us as do some of the webinars we choose for the upcoming season so before I get started I’d like to share our disclaimer about today's webinar.
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 to 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 Insurance, so it's nice to be with us today.
And the Metro Hartford Alliance, the Hartford regions, Hartford, Connecticut regions economic development powerhouse. So 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 come out of the shadows, and behind those high school gyms 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 DC have legalized medical marijuana.
As it’s 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 its 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 supplement 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. First joining me from Travelers is my terrific colleague Bill Zielinski, who is senior Vice President for Personal Insurance Product Management and Analytics at Travelers. Bill joined us in 2010 and 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 loss data and all research, including the legalization of recreational marijuana and its impact on the roads. Matt is the author of HLDI’s recent report on the effects of legalization on roadway safety.
And lastly, joining us for 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, or 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. Okay, so more than 50% of us say yes, there is a store, dispensary near you. About 14% said 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?
Matt Moore: Uh, no, not at all. It's to some extent it's disappointing so.
Joan Woodward: Okay, there you have it. Lots of access out there okay, 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. Okay Let's move on to the to the session and I’m going to turn over the program today to my good friend Bill Zielinsky 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.
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 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. You know we'll begin with really hitting the basics. Marijuana or cannabis, we go to the start of the presentation, thank you, 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 it’s a 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 mine altering chemical that is a subject of much of the analysis of what we'll talk about in a second.
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.
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 North 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 DC approved for medical use.
Recreational use now approved in 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, it's perhaps not surprising to see utilization increasing over time.
From 2008 to 2018 so in just over a decade, when you look at residents 12 and over, right who reported using marijuana over the last over the past month. It's doubled. Right so from 6% to 12% so a substantial increase in this data is taken based on a 2020 substance abuse and mental health services administration report.
Looking at a different lens, state tax revenue, which actually helped me get the $18 Billion question up front from Joan right, state tax revenues really provide a clear lens into how legalization has translated into legal use. Tax approaches definitely vary by state, you know 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 million to tax revenues over the years. And we have a little more detail here on California, which really is the 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 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 mobile called gray markets, but also certainly reflective of demand, we believe.
Now, before we transition to studies that really talk about the implications to highway safety, it is important to note that the potency as 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 2000 and 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 how that changed over the years. So, 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.
Matt Moore: Thanks much Bill. So folks we're going to have 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 gonna say, “well, did I see this slide already?” “didn't I already I see this evaluation?” and it's important to keep in mind that sort of the 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. It’s this importance of doing these multiple tests , as we advance through the presentation and go to the next slide, 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 in Wyoming is a little bit lower so you know, 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 dangerous, injury producing crashes.
We're going to take a look next at an evaluation. 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.
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 an increase of risk, increase of collision claim frequency of 5.4%, with little variability between the two 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. 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, you know, at the onset of legalization, increased, risk definitely increase, and it does persist for a considerable period of time. Next slide please. Back to you Bill.
Bill Zielinski: 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. You know, 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 nine. Right it's the ninth carrier in the country in private passenger auto out of hundreds, we're proud of that.
That gives us purview into about 3% of the industry data. And given HLDI’s 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.
Now, if we take it one step further, HLDI has dramatically more clean 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 wanted to share these metrics because I think it puts a really fine point on that essential role that HLDI plays in allowing the industry to support highway safety efforts. You know 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.
Matt Moore: Thanks Bill. So, as I was saying it's important to do different tests related to the same subject and, in this case, so we first year we 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 and keep in mind that there are many, many, many collision claims which never get reported to the police.
You know single vehicle crashes, folks backing in the polls, or you know, 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 a we’re 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 the 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.
Actually we're going to look at the dates that states legalized so as I mentioned Colorado was the first and you could see here, that is an interesting from an analytical perspective, one of the interesting things is there's varying gaps between when recreational use became legal and when retail sales became legal.
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 us, 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.
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, 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, that 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.
Bill. Oops sorry, this is still me, a next slide please.
But you know 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, is there, or 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.
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 “control drivers” or a “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.
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, what we can see is there, there were more men in the crash population and that's very consistent when we look at fatal crashes. Men are overrepresented in the crash population and very much overrepresented in terms of the most severe crashes.
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 crash 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.
As we move on, what we can see, 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 or 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 you know impairment, is still a 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 an answer to the $19 Billion question about the relationship between marijuana and crash risk, I think that this study, although it doesn't scream that marijuana is a problem, I believe it screams that impairment, is still a big problem and, as we move on.
And we take a look at alcohol deaths in 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 into the presentation, that drivers who test positive for alcohol or 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, 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 that are marijuana related.
Because a big problem that we face is that the science really isn't settled in terms of the relationship between marijuana and impairment. It started, 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.
Christy Thiems: 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 why. With marijuana, there's 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 has subsided, this means that a positive drug test is not an indicator of current impairment necessarily.
Additionally, the length of time it takes the 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 and classification under the Controlled Substances Act. So, in order to be given 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% of THC by weight compared to states where marijuana is legal, consumers can purchase flower that contains 20 to 30% THC and concentrates that contains 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.
So, so, moving on to federal legislation, this is, this is one of the key advocacy points for APICA, 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, it required a report to be created investigating these barriers to research so that everyone was aware of how hard it is to do the sort of research. The second, encourages 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 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.
There were also provisions in the Appropriations Bill that include 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 impairment standards, the last item on the slide does not relate to impairment, but it does relate to the insurance industry.
A common question that we received from states that have legalized marijuana is, how can we encourage carriers to provide insurance to our state's 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 be an insurance company is 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 actually 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's 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 the safe banking actually does.
And so just to wrap up, I would like to highlight some of APCIA’s 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’ll see there's an OP ED there that was produced for July 4 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 used those most recently to support the infrastructure and that's the end of my slides, so I’ll turn it back to Joan.
Joan Woodward: All right, Christy, Bill and Matt that was 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 right 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, you know considered safe, are considered unsafe, is there a certain level and how do we get to that testing, you know how do we crack that nut?
Matt Moore: Joan, you’re a hundred percent right, so that the science is fairly settled with regard to the relationship between alcohol is tested in the blood and impairment. We know and understand that there's some variability in terms of state laws and alcohol levels. But in general, its alcohol is bad from 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 “test positive” and have had used the substance days or weeks before.
So, what's needed we, 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 the same thing with regards 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.
Joan Woodward: Okay, very, very interesting, you know, 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 you know, making people understand the risks? As you said 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 our police force to identify that, are most states doing that, the ones that have legalized it or just a few right now?
Matt Moore: It's interesting, as I understand it, Colorado is the leader of the league with regard to drug recognition experts.
But it's you know, 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 NIDA 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 are dosed with alcohol no change, by contrast, I’m sorry, those who dose with marijuana, no change.
Joan Woodward: No change.
Matt Moore: Those who are dosed with marijuana were 40% more likely to be driving below the speed limit. In contrast to no change in behavior for those who are dosed with alcohol in terms of their likelihood of being below the speed limit.
So, you know 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 decrease, speed also decreases the likelihood that 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.
Joan Woodward: Yeah and its very uneven right in terms of what's in those, in those substances you just don't know sometimes or all the time, you really don't know, right, what 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.
You know 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, talk to us about that a bit, because I think people don't realize that.
Christy Thiems: 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 yeah other people when, when it was still illegal, and people were using it in the gym underneath, 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 you know, like the drinks, the smoking can take effect quicker, but the edibles like the brownies, the cookies, the gummy bears, those can take longer. So you can't necessarily even experienced users have indicated that they're overwhelmed sometimes you hear these stories then people first try edibles and 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, 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.
Joan Woodward: Okay terrific. Bill I’m going to shift the focus a little bit and talk about insurance just a little bit so, you know while 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.
Bill Zielinski: Sure, yeah and I’ll take it from you know, both the personal insurance and business insurance angles. You know 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. You know we would handle the claim, we'd consider that claim experience and alignment with our files underwriting pricing, you know, but to be clear, we don't condone driving under the influence. From a commercial standpoint, you know, employers definitely need to be aware, you know, 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, it is still considered an illegal substance, so this means that anyone with a commercial driver's license or CDLs falls under the federal drug rules, regardless of the state they operate in. Whether it's legalized marijuana 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.
Joan Woodward: And Bill great okay so what is the insurance industry, what are they doing really to mitigate that drug driving if you will out there.
Bill Zielinski: Yeah, I can start and I’m sure others can jump in maybe Christy you know again.
You know, we wanted to hit it really in the presentation we're big supporters of HLDI and I just I think scientific studies, like the ones that were shared today are really essential and developing the facts, right, to inform our policymakers on implications, educate consumers on highway safety risks and risk factors.
And they can also, right, these facts can also help us with advocacy groups, law enforcement activities, etc. You know, Travelers, you know, certainly we try to leverage this information and other information wherever we can to educate our consumers and our distribution partners, you know one example.
Within our telematics program, we have an ability to push you know digital advice around safe driving So those are, those are mechanisms for us to help educate our consumer base and the general consumers. And you know, from a business insurance standpoint you know, with risk control, we really focus on helping our insureds to understand where various laws apply. For example, that federal DOT role that I had mentioned, and also, you know, an implementing comprehensive safety policies and employment practices.
Joan Woodward: Terrific that's great Bill. Christy let's get back to you for a second. You know, 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. So, so how is it going to happen? Do you believe it will happen in the next year? And are these dispensaries in places in the states that it's illegal, are they operating without insurance on their buildings and on their products right now?
Christy Thiems: There are some small state carriers that are comfortable picking this up, I think there's a little bit of a concern also with little crossing state lines and that sort of thing, but the until, you know it's, I find it really interesting with this whole, with the whole marijuana issue in certain cases it's very black and white, right and 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 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 the 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, I think at some point, we think somebody, at some point, something's going to have to happen there, there was a story about.
About somebody who owned a dispensary and had to go pay his taxes in California and he can only pay in cash. And so, he had to drive with a backpack of like $3 million to the to the state office, so he can pay his taxes. So, this financial services issue needs to get resolved and the insurance industry is a part of that. So, we’re more optimistic, no sure if it’s going to happen this year, but hopefully we'll see some things.
Joan Woodward: Okay now we're gonna go rapid fire to audience questions, so thank you for putting so many in the in the Q & A to our audience. Ronnie Cuptin 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 is there a test, a test kit of some sort, that states are using especially, I guess in Washington.
Matt Moore: In, 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 use for alcohol.
Joan Woodward: Okay, another question actually for you Matt what is the impact of highway safety that you 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?
Matt Moore: 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.
Bill Zielinski: 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 Travelers so you know quite a large number and yeah that change in policy is probably a little bit troubling. But you know, just tying back to understanding the laws, you know if you read underneath the headlines, it specifically excludes roles, where you have to do that type of drug testing, and so you know we know a component of their workforce right are on the roads are subject to those CEL requirements, so I think that's a little texture underneath it but yeah certainly and interesting change in approach.
Joan Woodward: Okay Christy, this one's for you so, Laura Holtzhauser with W3 Insurance is asking, “We’re always asked about hiring employees who carry a medical marijuana card, what are your thoughts on that?”
Christy Thiems: Well, this would definitely be an area to review with a local employment attorney. The laws around this issue vary widely from states that require you to allow someone, you know, who uses medical marijuana even do it on the premises. There's only like one or two states that does that, then there are other states that you know, 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. You know, there have been cases working their way through the courts, so it can kind of change at any minute, so there are, 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, you know, most states will say you don't have to allow it on your premises. And things like that, so but definitely check with an employment attorney.
Joan Woodward: Okay, another question here about distracted driving and marijuana. So Matt, I guess, this is for you and your research, did you, was distracted driving you know, considered in a correlation to these cases too or you didn't control for distracted driving?
Matt Moore: We did not control for distracted driving in those studies.
Joan Woodward: Is there any studies out there, that show people who are high, are more likely to be on their phones or nothing you've seen yet.
Matt Moore: I mean we know just in general that you know, one of the impairments that comes with the use of marijuana is decreased and divided attention. But there's no studies that I’m aware of indicating that marijuana leads to an increase in distracted driving.
Joan Woodward: Okay um someone asked, should we be more worried about people driving high or driving drunk?
Matt Moore: Yes.
Joan Woodward: Yes, all of the above right? Okay um 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, kind of like Doordash, you can, you can call up your Doordash person and get delivered marijuana. How's that gonna work with a car insured. Bill, do you uh?
Bill Zielinski: You know I might refer to Christy on this one. I studied the nuances and personal insurance, but this one is a little bit beyond me Christy.
Christy Thiems: that's one of those things where I think 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.
Joan Woodward: Okay um 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, I think the goal really is to try to mitigate and raise awareness, I think, education campaigns, similar to what we have done, you know, at Travelers with our Every Second Matters® distracted driving campaign and so as Bill, you know, you and I take up the mantle of this as 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 know you can put that in the corporate ESG bucket that we feel you know 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.
Matt Moore: Next steps…we're going to continue to evaluate, conduct tests, look at ways that we can study this issue, and 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 Poly- substance 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.
Joan Woodward: Yeah 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, you know was accelerated during the pandemic, a lot more people took that off, which is very, very concerning. So, do you have any thoughts Matt, Bill, or Christy about opioid use and roadway safety?
Christy Thiems: Well, I know for workers 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.
Joan Woodward: Agreed okay, 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. We want to make sure you get you get registered for those. They are really going to be quite interesting.
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, etc.
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, Christie 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 on October the sixth, we're going to talk about cybercrime, and we have a terrific Department of Justice attorney to come and talk about prosecution, you know 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 cybercrime in our country during the pandemic, with people are working remotely.
Claims are up. We see it every single day in the cyber product that we sell. So, come join us on October the sixth. Then on October 20.
I’m going to speak with Pat Gee, he has 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 27 we're going to host our Chief Underwriting Officer, my friend Rick Keegan and you don't want to miss this if you’re in the 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 3 we're going to be joined by experts at the Milken Institute to talk about the opioid crisis in the US. Then we have a lot more program coming up this winter, which we’ll 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.
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