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    459. Let’s Be Blunt: Marijuana Is a Boon for Older Workers

    en-usApril 22, 2021

    Podcast Summary

    • Sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh Investigates Our Digital Universe in New Podcast.Economist Catherine Maclean's research highlights the importance of responsible government policy and regulation in managing substance use and preventing negative consequences for families and individuals.

      Sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh's new podcast, Sudhir Breaks the Internet, sheds light on the people who run our digital universe and the problems that come with it. In a thought experiment, economist Catherine Maclean from Temple University believes that if alcohol and marijuana were discovered today and regulated similarly, she would choose marijuana as it is less correlated with adverse outcomes and violence. Maclean's research into substance use and mental health highlights the implications on families and individuals. This underscores the importance of government policy and regulation to ensure responsible use and prevent negative consequences.

    • The Impact of Marijuana Legalization on Older AdultsEconomist Catherine Maclean conducts natural experiments on the effects of marijuana on older adults and finds it can help treat chronic pain and reduce aggression. The staggered state-by-state rollout of legalization provides valuable data for researchers.

      As more and more states have legalized marijuana, economist Catherine Maclean has been conducting natural experiments to measure the impact of policy changes. Maclean has focused on the effects of marijuana on older adults who are more likely to have health conditions that may benefit from medical use. However, researching the effects of marijuana is difficult due to its Schedule 1 classification. Randomized controlled trials funded by the government can only purchase marijuana through a limited number of labs and the marijuana available is much less potent than what consumers use. Although research on the effects of marijuana is mixed, studies indicate that it can help treat chronic pain and reduce aggression. The staggered state-by-state rollout of marijuana legalization provides useful data for economists like Maclean.

    • Medical marijuana use could help keep older adults in workforceMedical marijuana may benefit older adults with health conditions, but access to it varies by state and federal regulations. Recreational legalization may increase medical use, and more research is needed to understand its impact on work capacity.

      Research shows that older adults with health conditions that qualify for medical marijuana are more likely to use it. This could be beneficial for keeping older adults in the labor market longer, potentially expanding the lifespan of Social Security. However, there are barriers to accessing medical marijuana, with qualifying conditions varying by state and federal healthcare facilities not able to engage with marijuana as a medical product. While most Americans do not use marijuana, recreational legalization could lead to an increase in medical use by those who were not eligible or faced other barriers. It is important to continue researching the impact of marijuana on the work capacity of older adults.

    • The Benefits of Legalizing Medical and Recreational Marijuana in the Workplace.Legalizing medical and recreational marijuana in the workplace can reduce chronic pain and workers' compensation claims, improve overall health, and increase the ability to work full-time and more hours per week, especially for older workers.

      Workers in states that legalize medical and recreational marijuana experience reductions in chronic pain and workers' compensation claims, as well as improvements in overall health and the ability to work full-time and more hours per week. These effects are particularly significant for older workers, with a 13-20% reduction in workers' compensation income probability after a medical marijuana law is implemented. The convenience and reduced financial cost of obtaining marijuana without a prescription may be a contributing factor to these effects.

    • The Pros and Cons of Marijuana LegalizationLegalizing marijuana can have benefits like reducing prison populations, increasing tax revenue, and providing pain relief, but it can also lead to unintended consequences like zero-tolerance laws and stigma. Policymakers must weigh both the benefits and costs before making decisions.

      Marijuana legalization has potential benefits, including fewer people in prison, more tax revenue, pain relief for patients, and better outcomes for workers, especially older adults. However, there are potential unintended consequences, such as employers struggling with zero-tolerance laws, incentivizing workers to shift towards substances that leave the body more quickly, and stigma around using a newly legalized product without professional guidance. Making drug policy is complex, and it is important to consider potential costs as well as benefits when creating policy.

    • The Effects of Marijuana Legalization on Disability and Workers' Comp Claims.Legalization of marijuana may affect workers' compensation and disability claims, though the impacts are not straightforward. It may be a substitute for paid employment, leading to more applications, but not all applications lead to benefits. Overall, legalization benefits those who use marijuana for chronic pain and mental health issues, but policy-making always has winners and losers.

      The legalization of marijuana may affect disability and workers' comp claims, but the effects are not clear-cut. Disability claims rose slightly after legalization, but most new applications did not result in benefits. Marijuana may be a substitute for paid employment, and the costs and benefits of applying for disability may be tilted in favor of an application following legalization. Overall, the winners of legalization are individuals able to use marijuana to manage symptoms associated with chronic pain or mental health conditions, but it is not effective for all health conditions. Policy making is complex and always has winners and losers.

    • The Impact of Marijuana Legalization on Workers' Comp Claims and the Potential of CBD for Addiction TreatmentMarijuana legalization has reduced workers' comp claims, especially for older adults. CBD, a non-psychoactive component of marijuana, may help treat opioid addiction by having the opposite effect of THC.

      Researchers have found that the legalization of marijuana has reduced the number of workers' compensation claims, making it easier for older adults to continue working. However, there is still uncertainty around the cost savings of legalized marijuana for the whole population, as different groups use the product differently. CBD, a chemical in marijuana that does not get you high, has been recently legalized by the U.S. government. Researchers are exploring its potential to treat opioid addiction, as early cannabis use is correlated with an increased risk of addiction later in life. Animal models have shown that CBD has the opposite effect of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, making it a promising option for addiction treatment.

    • The Pros and Cons of Legalizing Marijuana for Medical and Recreational UseLegalizing marijuana can have benefits like reducing opioid use, but policymakers must consider both the positives and negatives for society, including potential economic benefits and negative impacts on crime and human capital formation.

      Legalization of marijuana, whether for medical or recreational purposes, can have potential benefits such as reducing opioid-related mortality and prescriptions. However, it is important to consider both the costs and benefits for society as a whole. While marijuana may have economic benefits, it can also lead to increases in crime and negatively impact human capital formation for certain segments of the population. Additionally, the potential dangers of THC should not be overlooked. Ultimately, policy decisions regarding marijuana should be made based on careful consideration of both the positive and negative impacts on society.

    • Overcoming Bias in Marijuana and Alcohol ResearchResearchers must carefully consider socioeconomic factors and confounding conditions when studying the impact of drug and alcohol use on health outcomes. Quasi-experimental methods can provide credible estimates for policymaking.

      Legalizing marijuana poses challenges in determining causal relationships between its use and life outcomes due to omitted-variable bias. Quasi-experimental research methods provide credible estimates on the policy's effects. The association between alcohol consumption and exercise may be due to income effect and not necessarily a causal relationship. Abstainers may have health conditions that led them to abstain. Researchers must carefully account for biases and confounding factors when studying the effects of substance use on life outcomes and health.

    • Marijuana Policy and Health Benefits for Older AdultsLegalization of marijuana shows potential health benefits and employment opportunities for older adults, but early adopter data should be viewed cautiously. The marijuana industry in Colorado contributes more tax revenue than alcohol sales, and marijuana seems to be less correlated with adverse outcomes compared to heavy drinking.

      After a deep dive into the outcomes related to marijuana policy, researchers have found encouraging evidence for health benefits and employment opportunities for older adults. Legalization of marijuana seems to be quite popular, with support increasing over time. However, caution must be exercised when extrapolating early adopter data to later adopters or other states. The marijuana industry in Colorado contributes substantially to employment growth and tax revenues, with the state taking in nearly $400 million a year compared to less than $50 million from alcohol sales. While heavy drinking is harmful to health, abstaining from alcohol could also be a sign of past alcohol-use disorders or complex health conditions. In contrast, marijuana seems to be less correlated with adverse outcomes.

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