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There Are Fewer Worker Compensation Claims in States Where Marijuana Is Legal

The study of workers ages 40 to 62 found that cannabis had no adverse impact on productivity and offers workers a new, effective form of pain management therapy.

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The slow unraveling of the many myths told about cannabis during decades of the War on Drugs continues. In the latest case, a new study has found that states where recreational marijuana is legal have seen a drop in the number of workers compensation cases.

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In another refutation of the idea that weed makes lazy, low-IQ slackers of us all, researchers found that cannabis did not hurt worker productivity. Just the opposite occurred. Workers not only filed fewer workers compensation claims but also sought less money per claim.

Researchers published their work with the National Bureau of Economic Research. They wrote that their study offers "evidence that the primary driver of these reductions is an improvement in work capacity, likely due to access to an additional form of pain management therapy."

Related: Managing Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

Legalizing marijuana has helped save businesses money

While the requirements differ from state-to-state, most businesses are required to carry workers' compensation insurance. When an employee experiences a work-related injury, workers' compensation may cover the cost of their medical bills or help compensate them for lost wages.

The goal of workers' compensation is to shift some of the cost of workplace injuries, typically shouldered by workers and their families, to the governments and private companies that employ them.

Data is kept on the number of workers' compensation claims filed, as well as the amount of payment for each claim. Economists at Temple University, the University of Cincinnati, William Paterson University, and the RAND Corporation decided to cross-reference that data with information on which states had legalized adult-use marijuana.

They looked at data from 2010 and 2018 and focused on older workers. "We study older adults since they are more likely to experience health conditions for which marijuana may be effective in symptom management and to use prescription medications for which marijuana may serve as a therapeutic substitute," the researchers wrote.

Related: We Need to Clear the Smoke About Cannabis in the Workplace

Researchers found a 20 percent decline in workers comp receipts

The study found that even in this older age group, fewer workers in legal marijuana states filed workers' compensation claims. And even when they did, the claim amounts were smaller. They estimated that recreational marijuana reduced the workplace injury rate by 5.4 percent.

They also found a 20 percent decline in workers' compensation benefits and a 20.5 percent decline in annual income received through workers' compensation.

The new study's findings come just months after a Canadian study found that workers who use marijuana don't have more workplace accidents than their co-workers. Yet many businesses persist in including cannabis in their drug testing protocols, even though chemicals from cannabis stay in the bloodstream long after the effects are no longer felt.

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