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More People Are Claiming Disability in States With Legal Medical Cannabis, Research Suggests

A new study shows that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims rose 9.9% in states that have passed medical marijuana laws.

by Tyler Koslow

With medical marijuana permitted in 30 states and the District of Columbia, many patients across the United States now have ability to treat their debilitating conditions without fear of persecution or having to depend on the black market. Although legalization has been largely beneficial, an interesting study showcases an unintended consequence that may have stemmed from medical pot.

A team of researchers from Temple University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Cincinnati recently discovered that states with medical marijuana laws on the books have seen an increase in people making Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims. The working paper suggests that SSDI claims have rose by 9.9 percent following the passage of legislation, while benefits have only increased 2.6 percent.

Additionally, the researchers also discovered a similar trend among workers’ compensation (WC) claims. While their analysis didn’t produce evidence as strong as the SSDI claims, the data shows that medical marijuana laws also caused an increase in this sector. The paper suggests that cannabis causes side effects like lack of concentration, dizziness, and headaches, which are conditions that could make users less able to perform their jobs. Furthermore, they surmise that cannabis use could increase the chance of work-related injuries.   

Surprisingly, the study finds that younger people, between the ages of 23 and 40, have caused this noticeable uptick. Medical marijuana laws have caused no significant change in benefit claims for older adults between 41 and 62. However, for the younger group, the researchers found a 24% increase in the probability of making SSDI claims, as well as a 15% increase in the chance of claiming workers’ compensation.

While the researchers found a possible correlation between medical marijuana laws and disability claims, they could not determine the specific reasons.

Aside from the uptick in disability and workers’ compensation claims, cannabis legalization has shaken up the workforce in other ways too. For instance, some companies have struggled to find employees because they still drug test for pot, while the Drug Free America Foundation organization recently released the “Marijuana in the Workplace” toolkit to help employers legally navigate through the lens of pot legalization.


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Tyler Koslow is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with an intensive focus on technology, music, pop culture, and of course, cannabis and its impending legalization.



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