Study Finds Fewer People Are Dying on the Job Where Marijuana Is Legal

Marijuana studies cover many topics, ranging from legal weed’s impact on teen usage rates and crime to whether senior citizens are moving away from prescription opioids and into medical marijuana. But a new study looks at a very different facet of marijuana use: Does legal weed have any correlation with death in the workplace?

Specifically, researchers at Montana State University, the University of Colorado and American University looked for an association, if any exists, between legalizing medical marijuana in a state and the number of workplace fatalities. As the researchers wrote, there is “increasing concern that legalizing medical marijuana will make workplaces more dangerous.”

However, the researchers found just the opposite is true.

Related: Another Study Finds Lowered Opioid Use Where Medical Marijuana Is Legal

Marijuana and reduced workplace fatalities.

The study, published late in 2018, looked at workplace fatalities across the country using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Researchers then cross-referenced this information with areas where medical marijuana is legal.

They found that legalizing medical marijuana was associated with a 19.5 percent reduction in the number of expected workplace fatalities based on historical trends. This was associated with workers between the ages of 25 and 44.

What’s more, the association “grew stronger over time,” according to the research. In places where medical marijuana has been legal five years, there was a 33.7 percemnt reduction in the number of expected fatalities for workers 25 to 44.

Areas where medical marijuana is legal to treat pain and where collective cultivation is legal were associated with a lower fatality rate among workers between the ages of 25 and 44 than those areas that did not have those provisions. The study found that fatalities were not reduced among those workers between ages 16 to 24 and that the “association was a negative one” though not statistically significant.

Related: Federal Appeals Court Orders DEA to Reconsider if Marijuana Belongs on Schedule 1

Why fewer fatalities with marijuana?

The study did not reach a conclusion on why the number of expected fatalities had dropped so far, only offering proof that it had happened.

The researchers revealed their theories, however, when they suggested further study is needed into the issue. Specifically, they called for further investigation to determine if the study results are “attributable to reductions in the consumption of alcohol and other substances that impair cognitive function, memory and motor skills.”

There are other studies that suggest this could be the case. While it did not focus on the workplace, a recent study in Texas found that opioid prescriptions had dropped in areas where medical marijuana is legal. The drop was biggest for those between the ages of 18 and 55.

Further, the study found this drop where medical marijuana is legal. The same drop was not associated with legalized recreational marijuana. Another study found that consumers, led my Millennials, are lowering alcohol use in areas where marijuana is legal.

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