Legalizing medical marijuana leads to fewer and cheaper workers’ compensation claims, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Cincinnati Ash Blue College and Temple University concluded that permitting medical cannabis “can allow workers to better manage symptoms associated with workplace injuries and illnesses and, in turn, reduce need for [workers’ compensation].”
The first-of-its-kind research, published last week in the academic journal Health Economics, shows a 6.7 percent decline in such claims in states after enacting medical marijuana laws.
“Our estimates show that, post [medical marijuana law], [workers’ compensation] claiming declines, both the propensity to claim and the level of income from WC.”
By analyzing survey data, which featured annual interviews from 150,000 U.S. residents aged 15 or older spanning from 1989 to 2012, the authors describe the effects as “quite modest in size,” finding a 0.1 percent drop in “propensity to claim” and a 0.8 percent reduction in the monetary amount of claims when medical marijuana was available. The authors concluded that the result “may not reflect economically significant changes” despite the results being “statistically significant.”
“These findings offer suggestive evidence that, post [medical marijuana law], workers use marijuana medically to treat symptoms associated with work-related injuries and illnesses and that marijuana is effective in reducing symptom burden associated with these ailments.”
Additionally, the study reports other positive effects that expanding access to medical cannabis can have in the workplace, including increasing “work capacity among older adults, reduce work absences, improve workplace safety, and reduce [workers’ compensation] claiming and the pain and suffering associated with workplace injuries.”
The researchers wrote the study adds to the small, but steady, growing body of research observing the impacts medical marijuana laws have on labor markets. Other research points to the economic power cannabis access can have on business. One recent study found that “a multitude of positive effects” on firms headquartered in states that have medical marijuana laws on the books.
When it comes to worker health, other studies have pointed to the effects that marijuana has on people living with chronic pain and other ailments that cannabis has been shown to help. And according to similar research, people are using cannabis to replace potentially lethal opioid prescriptions.
Another study found that workplace deaths reduced by 34 percent five years after a state legalized medical marijuana, suggesting easier access could be beneficial in lowering fatal workplace incidents.