New Study: Medical Marijuana States Have Significantly Fewer Employee Sick Days

A new report published in Health Economics found that employees in states with medical marijuana laws have significantly fewer sick-related absentee days compared to states without laws.

Employees in states with medical marijuana legislation have a statistically significant number of fewer sick days, according to a new study published in Health Economics. The report, conducted by Darin F. Ulman of the Department of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, suggests that access to legal medicinal cannabis could be directly related, as the number of sick days taken by employees significantly decreased following the state’s’ adoptions of medical marijuana legislation.

Twenty-five states and Washington D.C. have passed comprehensive medical marijuana legislationPennsylvania and Ohio were the latest two states to adopt medicinal cannabis laws.

Ulman used a linear probability model (LPM) to analyze the work absence data following the passing of medical marijuana legislation in 24 states (not including the latest state, Ohio). Sickness-related absences dropped from 8 to 15 percent in states with medical marijuana legalization, the study found.

LPM tests for the effects of medical marijuana legalization on subgroups were also completed. Following medicinal cannabis legislation, full-time employees between the ages of 50 and 59 were 13 percent less likely to take a sick day. Employees ages 40 to 49 were 11 percent less likely to report a medical-related absence, and those between the ages of 30 and 39 were 16 percent less likely.

“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,” Ulman wrote in the report.

Employee absenteeism related to poor health, according to a 2013 Gallup poll, costs businesses in the United States an estimated $84 billion a year in lost productivity. The findings in Ulman’s study, however, suggest that medical marijuana legalization could reduce missed work and increase productivity.

“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,” Ulman wrote.

Ulmon was hesitant to claim clear causality, recognizing that research regarding cannabis laws’ effects on productivity and the labor market are limited. “Given the lack of prior studies, more research is warranted in this area.”

Whether the decrease in absentee days is related to the relief provided by cannabis or the risk of getting sick is less with regular cannabis use is unknown.

Research has demonstrated cannabis’s therapeutic efficacy for reducing pain, managing nausea and vomiting, improving sleep, and boosting appetite. Studies have also shown it possessing benefits for those suffering from conditions like multiple sclerosisglaucomaarthritisepilepsyHIV/AIDSCrohn’s disease, and cancer.

Ulman’s report, “The Effects of Medical Marijuana on Sickness Absence,” was published July 15 in Wiley Online Library ahead of its publication in Health Economics. You can read the full report here.