Fewer workers’ compensation claims may be one benefit of legalization

Published Feb 26, 2021 01:00 p.m. ET
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Figuring out how exactly legalization impacts society is an important part of establishing a better level of trust from those who are still on the fence about the whole idea. If they have real facts to weigh and contemplate, it makes it nearly impossible to ignore the truth, which is that the benefits far outweigh the risks of cannabis.

It’s got so many perks that it’s nearly impossible to name them all, but some are less predictable than others. One that no one could have expected is the incredible drop in workers' compensation claims that immediately follows legalization everywhere it’s been put into action. A shift that is nearly the opposite of some of the most famous anti-pot claims, which touted the idea that making recreational marijuana accessible would unmotivate individuals.

What is workers' compensation?

Workers' compensation is a type of insurance in the United States that provides things like wages, medical benefits, and care support for employees who have been injured. Many regions offer similar programs by different names, but the US requires that those who are hurt relinquish any legal rights to sue the company in exchange for receiving access to various health and financial services.

In some cases, these claims can be as short as a few days, offering just enough time for the individual to recuperate well enough to be medically cleared to return to work, but not every situation is so simple. Some injured workers end up receiving aid for many years, as they are unable to achieve a reasonable amount of relief or pain management through medicine or the process of healing.

Some thought legalizing recreational marijuana would make people lazy

The old-school stoner stereotypes suggest that recreational marijuana use makes those who partake, lazy, and if that logic was true then you would think that those who were using it would also take the longest break possible from work when the opportunity came about. Believe it or not, this for many years was a primary argument used against legalization, implying that the mere existence of this plant product on the market would leave folks, in general, unmotivated, leading to the collapse of civilized society as we know it.

New research shows fewer workers’ compensation claims


Most folks would agree that fewer claims are a good thing because it puts less stress on the subsidy system and it also means that workers are in better health. According to the latest research from the National Bureau of Economic Research, states that legalized recreational marijuana use from 2010-2018 saw a reduction in the number of claims by older workers. They also noted that those who did submit claims required aid for a shorter period of time, resulting in a smaller payout.

Why it works

Recreational marijuana is typically far easier to get than a medicinal recommendation, and this slight improvement in access leads to a larger number of older employees using it as a tool for stress relief and pain management. When these uncomfortable symptoms that so often go with age are easily managed without a prescription, it keeps employees willing to work harder for longer while significantly limiting the need for workers' compensation programs altogether.

According to researchers’ statements from economists at the University of Cincinnati, Temple University, the RAND Corporation, and William Patterson University cannabis is notably useful for a whole lot more than getting high, and there are few clearer examples of that than right here. When citizens are given easier access to effective relief, it benefits virtually everyone around them, and that’s a pretty incredible thing.

Will the trend continue?

As more countries and US states introduce some form of recreational marijuana legalization, this trend is very likely to continue, but just how far it will go, no one knows for sure just yet. For now, only those who are completely comfortable with the idea of cannabis are using it, but as the taboo and society's opinion evolve, so too will the incredible results we see in the increased quality of life that millions more will soon see. It’s a work in progress, and one that’s doing good in ways we never thought possible.

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