Study: Medical Marijuana Changes How Employees Use Sick Time

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New research published in the journal Health Economics suggests that the argument is overstated. Darin F. Ullman, an economist who recently received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, wanted to know what effect, if any, the enactment of medical marijuana laws has had on employee absentee rates.

A fair amount of research has been done on the aggregate impact of illicitmarijuana use on workplace productivity. Generally speaking, the most recent research — gathered and summarized in this 2014 paper — indicates that most marijuana use has little effect on workplace productivity, although chronic or heavy pot use can be a problem.

On net, the evidence is mixed. “It is simply uncertain as to whether there are negative labor market consequences of drug use in general, and cannabis use in particular,” the 2014 paper concludes.

But there hasn’t been a lot of research into the impact of licit marijuana use — particularly medical marijuana use — on the workplace. So Ullman decided to look into what happened to employee sick-day use in states that legalized medical marijuana, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey (CPS).

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