The growing number of states legalizing medical marijuana has led to an increased number of individuals filing for Social Security Disability in these states. It is theorized that increasing access to medical marijuana creates a disincentive to work and may negatively affect the workforce and financial stability of social welfare programs including Social Security, workers’ compensation, etc. Currently, the government spends $208 billion on SSDI and workers’ compensation benefit programs. This is a 2.6% increase over previous years that some assert is rising in part because of the increase in medical marijuana prescriptions.
The Correlation Between Weed and Workforce
Medical Marijuana laws have been passed in 30 states and the District of Columbia. These laws allow individuals with disabling injuries and medical conditions to receive prescriptions for marijuana to ease their pain and other related symptoms. Qualifying conditions include cancer, MS, Parkinson’s, glaucoma, epilepsy and many other similarly disabling diagnoses.
Researchers have found tentative links between younger workers between the ages of 23 and 40 who file claims for SSDI benefits in states where medical marijuana is legalized. In these states, there was a 24% increase in the probability a younger worker would file an SSDI claim. There was also a 15% increase in the probability the worker would file a claim for workers’ compensation.
Like any drug, marijuana consumption has effects that can hinder an employee’s ability to heal and return to the workforce. Marijuana consumption has significant impacts on the individual’s ability to concentrate, operate machinery, or otherwise perform basic job functions. The long-term consequences of medical marijuana legalization could have a significant impact on the state economy and health of the workforce. The increased use of marijuana could also increase the number of workers who experience disabling injuries and fatalities while under the influence.
Medical Marijuana in Tennessee
Under current law, individuals filing for Social Security Disability cannot pursue medical marijuana treatment. However, legislators in Tennessee are currently considering whether the state should legalize medical marijuana and may do so in the coming session. There were numerous bills presented to the legislature in the 2017 session in support of such a measure. Statewide, a 2014 poll conducted by MTSU showed that 75% of Tennesseans support such a measure. However, legislators have yet to vote on the proposed bills and are scheduled to continue debate when the legislature reconvenes in January 2018.