Medical Cannabis Keeping Older Adults In The Workforce

Medical cannabis and workplace participation
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A recently published study has revealed that in U.S. states with medical marijuana laws (MML),  older adults (those 50+) tend to stay in the workforce longer – and work longer hours.

Using 1992 – 2012 Health and Retirement Study data to estimate differences, researchers from John Hopkins School of Public Health found older adults certainly seem to be benefiting in terms of increased workforce participation.

This demographic is the group with the highest prevalence of many chronic conditions for which marijuana may be an effective treatment – such as  chronic pain, sleep disorders, and spasticity (muscle control disorders).

Prescription opioid abuse among this group can also be high, with devastating consequences including impacts on workplace participation. Opioid abuse, which often occurs in connection to chronic pain, has been shown to be lower in states with medical cannabis laws.

“Chronic pain is particularly important in the context of the medical marijuana debate,” say the researchers.

“This condition is one of the most commonly reported conditions among medical marijuana patients and is often listed as a `qualifying’ health condition in state MMLs.”

While states don’t provide individual-level data, the researchers note that based on available data, 20% to 60% of all registered medical marijuana users in U.S. states reporting demographic information are over age 50.

Among older men, the researchers found the implementation of MMLs leads to a 4.2% and 4.9% increase in the number of hours worked per week and a 9.4 percent increase in the probability of employment . The findings were broadly comparable with older women.

However, the researchers also concluded that MMLs are more effective in improving health status among older men than among older women. Perhaps one of the reasons MMLs have a bigger positive impact in this regard for men is connected to chronic pain.

A recent study carried out by researchers from Columbia University Medical Center found men experience greater pain relief than women after smoking marijuana.

The Impact of Medical Marijuana Laws on the Labor Supply and Health of Older Adults can be viewed in full here (PDF).