A new paper produced partially under the auspices of the federal government and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research has found an association between enactment of marijuana legalization laws and a decline in the number of workers’ compensation claims filed.
The research was carried out by a team of researchers from the RAND Corporation, the University of Cincinnati, Temple University, and Wayne University. It found that overall among the 40-62 year old workforce there was a 20 percent decline in workers’ compensation filings compared with states where cannabis had not been legalized. In addition, annual income received from successful workers’ compensation claims declined 20.5 percent in states post-legalization.
There could be many reasons for a fall off in compensation claims, but the researchers say this was not a pre-existing trend. Nor could the observed reduction in workers’ compensation benefits be explained by a concurrent decrease in labor supply mechanically reducing WC participation or due to industry composition shifts which lead to a higher share of the workforce in safer industries.
Instead the researchers argue, there is a genuine effect at play, which is that increased availability of cannabis for medicinal and recreational use means people are more likely to be fit enough to work, “likely due to access to an additional form of pain management therapy.”In fact the authors add that they observed “an increase in labor supply due to RML [recreational marijuana laws] adoption, which is further in line with RMLs improving work capacity among older adults.”
Previous research also identified a similar, but not as significant, decline in workers’ compensation filings following the enactment of medical marijuana laws. That study, published in 2020, concluded, “On net, the available findings suggest that MML passage may increase work capacity among older adults, reduce work absences, improve workplace safety, and reduce WC claiming and the pain and suffering associated with workplace injuries.”