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Will Disability Claims Rise in Marijuana Legal States?

According to Temple University, State Legal Marijuana is Likely to Increase the Amount of Disability Claims

The negative stigma surrounding marijuana gained some support from Temple University recently. Researches believe the probability that states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana will see more disability claims filed will increase. The undertone of such research certainly lends to the idea that people that use cannabis are unmotivated and are not contributing to the economy. Do you feel less motivated as a medical marijuana patient than you did before?

Medical marijuana laws are becoming more popular across the country, but legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes can have a major unintended consequence.

State medical marijuana laws lead to an increase in the probability that people will make Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims, according to a new working paper from researchers at Temple University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Cincinnati. The tendency to make an SSDI claim rose 9.9% following the passage of a medical marijuana law, while actual SSDI benefits rose by 2.6%. The report, which was distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research, used data from the Current Population Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to produce its findings.

The researchers also studied the effect state laws on medical marijuana had on workers’ compensation (WC) claims. While their analysis did not produce any statistically significant evidence on these claims, the researchers said the data suggested generally that the laws do cause an increase. “Expanding marijuana access has negative spillover effects to costly social programs that disincentive work,” the researchers wrote.

Consequently, medical marijuana laws could have a major impact on these already-costly social insurance programs were they to become even more prevalent. So far, 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana to treat a host of illnesses ranging from cancer and glaucoma to chronic pain disorders and epilepsy. As of 2016, the SSDI and workers’ compensation programs cost the government and employers roughly $208 billion annually.

And while older adults are more likely to suffer from many of the conditions medical marijuana is prescribed for, they aren’t more likely to file a disability claim. The researchers reported no statistically significant evidence that medical marijuana laws resulted in a change in benefits claims among older adults between the ages of 41 and 62. That wasn’t true of their younger peers between the ages of 23 and 40. For them, the passage of medical marijuana laws led to a 24% increase in the probability of making SSDI claims and a 15% increase in the likelihood of workers’ compensation claims.

The researchers could not determine a specific reason why the laws led to an increase in disability claims. Medical marijuana could be more effective than other medications at reducing symptoms of certain illnesses — but cannabis can come with its own side-effects including lack of concentration, dizziness and headaches, among others. These side-effects could make people less capable of performing their jobs. Additionally, the researchers said it is plausible that use of marijuana on the job or “hangover” effects could increase the risk of work-related injury, which in turn could lead to a disability claim. Some workers may also choose to claim these social insurance benefits rather than work if their use of medical marijuana hampers their productivity and lowers their wages.

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