A recent study offers proponents of legal cannabis a potential new potential payoff… lower workers’ compensation claims. Between 2010 and 2018 in states where cannabis has been legalized fewer older workers filed workers’ compensation claims and those claims that were filed had lower payouts. This research was distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Employers pay into workers’ compensation funds meant to provide income and health care services for injured employees who can’t work due to injury. When workers in pain have easier access to cannabis for chronic pain management that’s been shown to reduce their need for workers’ compensation — and tends to keep them working, according to economists at Temple University, the University of Cincinnati, William Paterson University and the RAND Corporation. “Once marijuana becomes legal for recreational use among adults, many people use it for medicinal purposes” including pain management, said Temple University Professor Catherine Maclean, one of the study’s authors. Surveys over the years back up Maclean, showing many people eyeing cannabis for health-related reasons rather than getting high.
Maclean and her colleagues combed through recurring Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys that questioned more than 500,000 people, including asking whether the person received workers’ compensation and, if so, how much? In states where cannabis is completely legal, 20% fewer workers between the ages of 40 and 62 said they received any worker’s compensation in the past year compared to modeling of those same states if they hadn’t authorized full recreational use. The average payouts in those states dropped $21.98, compared to a baseline of roughly $100.
The findings align with past research which found a 13% decline in workers compensation claims for older adults as medical marijuana statutes spread from 1990 to 2012. During the 2010 to 2018 timeframe, eight states and Washington D.C. authorized recreational adult use, she noted. Nationwide, workers received $62.9 billion in workers’ compensation benefits in 2018, down 1.2% from 2014, according to the National Academy of Social Insurance.
The study also comes as Americans everywhere grapple with opioids, potent painkillers that may quickly lead to addiction. The new study points to past research saying opioid-related deaths can drop between 20% and 35% as legal marijuana becomes prevalent. 2018 research looked at the links between opioid use and workers’ compensation claims. Workers who were prescribed opioids tended to be out on workers’ compensation for longer periods tended to be off the job for longer periods, the study said. Putting workers’ compensation claims aside legal cannabis has assisted with workers ability to stay working which boosts lifetime earning ability and life satisfaction the authors noted.
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