A study conducted by researchers at Temple University has produced some surprising statistics. It seems to suggest that “medical marijuana may lead to fewer workers' compensation claims.”
They found that:
In states with laws allowing medical marijuana…. there was a nearly 7% decline in workers' comp claims. When there were claims, they were for shorter periods of time, on average, after medical marijuana was legalized.
Study coauthor Catherine Maclean said, “We think there is a lot of overlap between conditions for which medical marijuana can be used in managing symptoms and the types of illnesses that lead people to file workers' compensation claims.” Maclean cited as an example the use of medical marijuana in reducing chronic pain symptoms. She said that, while it doesn't cure the condition, it can allow the individual to mitigate the symptoms.
Maclean also said, “When a state adopts medical marijuana legalization there is a modest decline in the propensity to file claims and a reduction in the (overall average) income people receive from workers' compensation.”
Personally, I understand the interest and potential viability of medical cannabis when it comes to pain management, but I really do not think the study connected the dots when it comes to a reduction in the number of workers' compensation claims. In fact, when it comes to claim reduction, the only correlation you could possibly draw is that stoned people are better at working with an injury.
In some of her earlier research, Maclean found that after legalization of medical marijuana, older workers experienced a reduction in pain and an increase in the number of hours worked.
To look at the potential impact of medical marijuana legalization on workers' comp claims, Maclean and her coauthor turned to data from the Census Bureau's Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey in 1990-2013. Each year between February and April, the survey interviews 150,000 U.S. residents aged 15 and older.
When the data were analyzed, the researchers found a 6.7% decrease in claims when medical marijuana was legally available. In addition, the dollar amount of claims decreased by 0.8%.
The new study provides a window on the possible impact of medical marijuana legalization on people's ability to work even when in pain, said David Powell, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation in Arlington, Virginia.
We may be on to something here. If this study is correct, we need to start pushing for more access to medical marijuana for our injured workers. Except, if the study is correct, they are less likely to file a claim and become categorized as an injured worker if they are already using marijuana when injured.
I suppose that in this context marijuana could be considered a preventative cure, sort of like blood pressure medicine is used to prevent heart attacks and strokes. If we can get all of our employees using medical marijuana before there is a medical event we can prevent the medical event in the first place. Or at least prevent the reporting of the medical event, since the injured worker may not realize they have been injured.
My head hurts from thinking about it. But that is probably because I am not using medical marijuana.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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