Study: Legalizing cannabis could improve workplace safety

“Because the use of alcohol at work is associated with a substantial increase in the risk of injury, and because non-habitual opioid use slows reflexes and impairs cognitive functioning, the enactment of MMLs [medical marijuana laws] could, in theory, make workplaces safer,” explained the study’s authors

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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New research has shed some light on the impacts of medical cannabis on workplace safety. It turns out that – contrary to popular belief that cannabis may negatively impact an employee’s productivity at work – the plant actually seems to be having a positive effect on members of the workforce in states that have legalized weed for medical purposes.

The study was published in the International Journal of Drug Policy in 2018. It was completed thanks to the hard work of a team of economists and researchers from three separate universities: American University, University of Colorado and Montana State University.

Workplace fatalities among young adult employees dropped in medical cannabis-friendly states

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-cannabis-workplace-safety-sayle-group-1.4770665

“Legalizing medical [cannabis] was associated with a 19.5 percent reduction in the expected number of workplace fatalities among workers aged 25–44,” noted the study researchers.

A primary goal for the researchers was to determine, with a good level of accuracy, a link between the rate of severe workplace injuries that occurred in States after the plant was legalized for medical purposes.

To successfully carry out this study on the impacts of medical cannabis on workplace safety, data was drawn from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The researchers paid close attention to data recorded between the years 1992 and 2015.

One theory that might explain the noticeable reduction in workplace fatalities and/or serious injuries that occurred in states that have legalized medical cannabis could be that the consumers felt less inclined to consume alternative substances. Many medical cannabis patients are even substituting dangerous, more addictive substances, like alcohol and opioids, with cannabis.

“Because the use of alcohol at work is associated with a substantial increase in the risk of injury, and because non-habitual opioid use slows reflexes and impairs cognitive functioning, the enactment of MMLs [medical marijuana laws] could, in theory, make workplaces safer,” explained the study’s authors.

Study impacts of medical cannabis on workplace safety

Human rights legislation clearly states that employers must accommodate the needs of employees who have been authorized to consume medical cannabis. The legislation is valid so long as the medication doesn’t affect workplace performance and behavior. Unfortunately, shockingly few employers cover medical cannabis as a treatment under their benefits plans, despite a rapid rise in the patient demographics.

Although the findings of this study are eye-opening, it should be mentioned that BLS datasets are supplied state-by-state to determine the impacts of medical cannabis on workplace safety. This means that it is not possible to draw up a conclusion that says correlation means causation. The researchers noted how the variation of data makes the task of determining extenuating factors that may cause workplace fatalities extremely difficult.

Nevertheless, the research is overly positive, thus painting a positive image of the widely misunderstood cannabis plant. A more in-depth insight into the effects of medical cannabis use on workplace safety is expected once a forthcoming study has been conducted as part of a joint partnership between the Conference Board of Canada and The Globe and Mail.

The joint partnership will investigate the influence that cannabis use – both medical and recreational – has on career success. Both employers and employees are invited to partake in the study, which can be accessed via this link. The report will be finalized and presented at a Toronto-based conference on October 15 of this year.

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