Could Medical Marijuana Help Baby Boomers Get the Most Out of Retirement?

States that passed medical marijuana laws saw a significant boost to older Americans’ workforce participation, according to a new working paper from researchers at Johns Hopkins and Temple University. States with medical marijuana laws also saw improvements in overall health for older men, although the health effects for older women were more mixed.

Like many recent studies examining the effects of marijuana laws, this one compared what happened in medical marijuana states before and after the passage of medical pot provisions, and compared them to trajectories in similar states that did not implement medical marijuana. The data comes from the Health and Retirement study, a long-running survey of the health and economic well-being of older American adults.

The study found that, among individuals age 50 and older, “passage of [a medical marijuana law] leads to a 9.4 percent increase in the probability of employment and a 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent increase in hours worked per week.”

Why the boost to employment? Simply put, overall health appeared to be better in states with medical marijuana laws. In those states, older men were 5 percent more likely to say they were in “very good” or “excellent” health. And part of the reason men rated their health better is because they were in less pain: the passage of a medical marijuana law led to roughly a 10 percent drop in the percent of men saying they experienced pain.

The health effect on women, however, appeared to be more mixed. “Surprisingly, among women we find evidence that passage of [a medical marijuana law] that provides legal access to the product increases the probability of reporting pain in the full sample by 1.3 percentage points (3.8 percent).” Nonetheless, the study found that like men, older women were about 5 percent more likely to report “very good” or “excellent” health after the passage of medical marijuana.

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