Legal Pot In New Jersey Could Drive Up Car Insurance Rates

By Keri Blakinger 11/29/17

Some experts worry that giving marijuana the green light in Jersey could increase car crashes in the highly trafficked state.

person rolling joint in car

Car insurance rates could rise in New Jersey if marijuana legalization becomes a reality under the newly elected political regime. 

In Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, collision claims rose 3% higher than expected in the aftermath of cannabis legalization, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). If the same holds true in the Garden State, drivers could see a hike in premiums if legislators make good on their promise to push through new pot laws during Governor-elect Phil Murphy’s first 100 days in office.

“This report should give other states pause,” said HLDI senior vice president Russ Rader. The group’s data analysis showed that the first three states to greenlight recreational pot had more car crashes, with the biggest increase in claim frequency occurring in Colorado.

The state's ballooning collision claim frequency was more than 14% higher than in nearby Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming, which served as controls in the consumer group’s report. In Washington and Oregon, claim frequency was, respectively, 6% and 4% higher than in nearby states.

"The combined effect for the three states was smaller but still significant at 3%," said Matt Moore, another HLDI senior vice president. 

Some experts worry that the effect could be heightened in New Jersey, which already has more traffic and higher premiums than most states. 

“If it were to happen in New Jersey the way that it’s happened in these states—and I can’t see any reason why it would be different—it could actually be a lot worse because we have more cars per square mile,” James Lynch, chief actuary for the Insurance Information Institute, told New Jersey's 101.5.

But not everyone is convinced. Christine O’Brien, president of the Insurance Council of New Jersey, told the New Jersey Patch that she wasn’t entirely persuaded by the report’s findings. “We are tentatively watching the debate,” she said. 

Anti-pot GOP Governor Chris Christie’s term ends in January, and some Garden State politicos see the new Democratic administration as a boon for legalization efforts. 

"The election of Phil Murphy gets us a giant step closer,” State Senator Nicholas Scutari told “Without him, I don't know where we would be. He has a 100% commitment to it.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.