Could legal medical marijuana reduce workplace deaths?

You’d be forgiven for thinking legal medical marijuana may not make people safer at work. After all, most associate cannabis with reduced function. However, a study carried out at the University of Colorado tells a different story.

According to the researchers, legal medical marijuana reduces fatal workplace deaths. The number of fatal workplace deaths in states where it’s legal have seen these benefits. So which states are improving? And why would medical cannabis have these effects?

Which states have legalized medical marijuana?

To date, 33 states have legalized medical marijuana. They include Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, Maryland, and New York. Unsurprisingly, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Many states require those who use the medication to carry a card, which users get from a physician.

How significant were the study’s findings?

According to the researchers, there is a 19.5% decrease in fatal workplace accidents in states where medical marijuana is legal. Although there was a small reduction for those outside of that age range, it wasn’t as spectacular.

How could medical marijuana make workplace deaths less likely?

It’s quite difficult to state why medical marijuana would make workplace deaths less likely. The researchers believe it’s because it reduces workers’ use of alcohol. However, there isn’t much data to support the idea that medical marijuana reduces alcohol consumption.

We do know that medical cannabis tackles conditions such as anxiety, though. Certain forms may boost serotonin and dopamine levels, which both improve focus and happiness. Therefore, it’s possible that using the medication reduces accidents because the person working can concentrate more on the task at hand.

There’s also evidence to suggest that using medical marijuana makes it easier to fall asleep. The cannabinoids inside the drug interact with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which then prime your neurochemistry for a better night of rest. Again, this is only a hypothesis, but if those who use it are sleeping better, their focus in the workplace will improve too.

Is there an alternative explanation for the reduced workplace deaths?

As any scientist will tell you, correlation doesn’t mean causation. There may have been lots of other changes within the states or throughout America as a whole that resulted in fewer workplace deaths. For example, stricter policies regarding health and safety. Or, the introduction of better workplace healthcare policies.

Whatever the reasons for the reduction in workplace deaths, it’s excellent news for those who worry about occupational injuries. And if you feel as though you’re at risk of an accident in your workplace, discuss all your medication options with your doctor.


About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.