Medical Marijuana Laws Related To Decrease In Work Absences

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New research shows that medical marijuana laws may lead to fewer work absences.

When considering medical marijuana laws, some people — particularly employers — raise concerns about the impact on workers. New research published in the journal Health Economics shows that in fact, medical marijuana laws appear to be related to a decrease in sick days.

“Health Economics Letter: The Effect of Medical Marijuana on Sickness Absence” by Darin F. Ullman, PhD, was published July 15, 2016. The findings are summarized in the abstract: “Utilizing the Current Population Survey, the study identifies that absences due to sickness decline following the legalization of medical marijuana. The effect is stronger in states with ‘lax’ medical marijuana regulations, for full-time workers, and for middle-aged males, which is the group most likely to hold medical marijuana cards.”

Following are the results and conclusion, from the full article:

3 Results

The LPM estimate results for the full sample are presented in columns (1)–(4). In column (1), the estimate is negative, significant at the 10% level and suggests that relative to the mean of the sample, respondents were 8% less likely to report being absent from work due to health issues after MML. Column (2) presents results for lax and strict MML states and shows that lax states’ sickness absence decreased by 13%, relative to the mean, and is significant at the 10% level. Furthermore, to isolate the groups that are most likely to use medical marijuana for health issues, columns (3) and (4) report results with policy dummy interactions. Relative to the mean sickness absence of the isolated group, men are nearly 9%, and individuals ages 30–39 and 40–49 are 15 and 11% less likely to report sickness absence after MML. These results are significant at the 5, 1 and 5% level.

Results for full-time workers can be seen in columns (5)–(7). Specifically, age groups 30–39, 40–49, and 50–59 are 16, 11 and 13% less likely report absences due to illness/medical issues after MML. These results are significant at the 1, 10 and 1% level, respectively.
4 Conclusion

Dunn et al. (1986) estimate that costs of absenteeism in the USA are around $24bn a year. Coles et al. (2007) estimate that the wage offset of a 1% increase in the absence rate is 56 cents. The results of this paper therefore suggest that MML would decrease costs for employers as it has reduced self-reported absence from work due to illness/medical issues. Although there is not a direct identification of those who use marijuana for medical purposes in the data, overall sickness absence is reduced for those in age and gender groups most likely to be cardholders.

With momentum in the favor of legalized medical marijuana, it will be important to understand how this legislation will impact the labor market. Given the lack of prior studies, more research is warranted in this area.

The abstract, and links to purchase the full article, are available here.

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