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Legalizing Medical Marijuana Could Make Workplaces Safer

States that legalize medical marijuana typically do so with the intention of cannabis alleviating specific symptoms and illnesses—PTSD, intractable epilepsy, chronic pain. But a recent study suggests that medical cannabis legalization has an additional unintended effect. It’s making workplaces safer.

According to this new research, states that legalized medical cannabis saw a drop in workplace fatalities among young adult employees. “Legalizing medical marijuana was associated with a 19.5% reduction in the expected number of workplace fatalities among workers aged 25–44,” the study found.

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The study was published last year in the International Journal of Drug Policy by economists from Montana State University, University of Colorado, and American University. Their goal was to better understand the effect between serious workplace injuries in states that adopted medical marijuana legalization by analyzing data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, focusing on the years between 1992-2015.

This drop could be from workers using medical cannabis instead of more harmful drugs like alcohol and opioids. According to the study’s authors, “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.”

It’s important to remember that correlation doesn’t always mean causation. In addition, Researchers were keen to mention that BLS datasets are rendered state by state, meaning it’s impossible to pinpoint any extenuating factors around the workplace fatalities. Still, it’s significant research that demonstrates the possibilities around medical marijuana are more positive than negative.

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