The Link Between Medical Marijuana And Disability Claims

By Kelly Burch 09/28/17

A new study investigated the connection between the increase in medical marijuana access and those filing for disability.

Doctor writing on prescription pad near bottle with medical cannabis on table close up

A new analysis has found that the increase in access to medical marijuana is tied to an increase in people applying for disability. 

A working paper detailing the research of scholars at Temple University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Cincinnati found that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims rose 9.9% after the passage of medical marijuana in an area. Claims that were approved and paid rose 2.6%, according to MarketWatch.  

The increase was vastly different among older and younger age groups. There was no increase in claims after medical marijuana was passed for workers ages 41 to 62. However, for workers between the ages of 23 and 40, the legalization of recreational marijuana led them to be 24% more likely to make SSDI claims, and 15% more likely to make workers' compensation claims. 

The study did not give a reason for the increase in claims, but researchers noted that marijuana use has its own side effects that can affect on-the-job performance. People who are daily users may be more likely to be distracted at work, which could lead to more workplace accidents, for example. 

"We hypothesize that our findings are plausibly driven by the work-impeding side effects of marijuana used medically and through recreational use of marijuana,” researchers wrote. However, the data that was used could not answer that question, so further research would be needed to find out why there was an increase in claims. 

“As datasets that allow researchers to separate medical use from recreational use become available, it will be interesting to revisit this question to better understand the specific pathways through which marijuana obtained through [medical marijuana programs] influences SSDI and [workers' comp] claiming,” they wrote.

There is a lot of overlap between the conditions that can cause someone to seek SSDI or workers' compensation, and the conditions that lead to medical marijuana use. The three most common conditions that lead to SSDI claims were musculoskeletal system disorders like back injuries, neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, and mental health disorders like anxiety. All of those disorders also qualify someone for medical marijuana. 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Kelly Burch Contrib.jpg

Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.