Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Associated With Greater Workforce Participation Among Older Americans

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 4, 2016

    oil_bottlesThe enactment of statewide medicinal cannabis programs is associated with greater participation in the workforce by adults age 50 and older, according to the findings of a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-partisan think-tank.

    Researchers at the John Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore and Temple University in Philadelphia analyzed two-decades of data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative panel survey of Americans over 50 and their spouses, to determine the impact of medical marijuana access laws on subjects’ health and workforce participation.

    Authors reported, “[H]ealth improvements experienced by both groups (older men and women) permit increased participation in the labor market.” Specifically, investigators determined that the enactment of medical marijuana laws was associated with 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” among those over the age of 50.

    They concluded: “Medical marijuana law implementation leads to increases in labor supply among older adult men and women. … These effects should be considered as policymakers determine how best to regulate access to medical marijuana.”

    Previous analyses of the impact of medical cannabis laws on various health and welfare outcomes report that legalization is associated with a reduction in obesity-related medical costs, decreased rates of opioid addiction and mortality, fewer workplace absences, and reduced Medicare costs.

    Full text of the study, “The impact of medical marijuana laws on the labor supply and health of older adults: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study,” appears online here.

    15 Responses to “Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Associated With Greater Workforce Participation Among Older Americans”

    1. Mark Mitcham says:

      You bet! I’m fifty-six years old, and ever since I’ve been in the state-authorized medical marijuana program, my health has improved tremendously. I’m as fit and frisky as a spring lamb on a sunny day, frolicking in the field, kicking up its heels at some butterflies that are dancing in a warm breeze, under crisp blue skies…

      Oops! Sorry, euphoria can be a “side-effect” of cannabis use, and of good health itself.

      • lockedoutofmyshed says:

        mark, i am 59 this year. consumed cannabis for 32 years. all that time (of course i was younger) i always felt good even with back, neck damage, it was my mind that kept me spirited even tho my body was not always up to the task. i give that to cannabis.it has kept me spirited and industrious. 7 yrs ago my job began hair testing. slowly, that spring in my mind went away. i know we change as we get older but i firmly believe that i would feel like you do now if i were allowed to consume the ‘remedy’ ….

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          I empathize deeply. Although I understand that it’s none of my business, I would respectfully encourage you to aggressively look for ways to separate yourself from that policy –quit, retire, find a new job — whatever it takes. I do understand that’s usually easier said than done! And I know there’s gonna be a price for dumping your job, and that it’s often more than most people can pay. That’s the real crime, right there: forcing people to choose between their health and their job.

          But remember, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything! Less money but better health is a good deal, in disguise.

    2. Sundance Shelleen Paul BeKinnie says:

      You guys forgot to link the paper in your article.

      [Paul Armentano responds: The post links to the paper on two separate occasions, including at its conclusion. The full text is at: http://papers.nber.org/tmp/80914-w22688.pdf

    3. Julian says:

      Country music legend and NORML advisory board member Willie Nelson is 83 years old and will be playing in Austin Obtober 9th at ACL. This man has arthritis and yet he is healthy and spirited enough to play the guittar for a living! God Bless you Willie! Ill be at a NORML educational event for Marijuana reform down in San Antone but Ive been to a couple of Willie’s picnics and they always feel like home.

      If we shall require any more evidence marijuana consumption makes us more productive after age 50, take alook at NORML’s advisory board;


      …and may we forever hold our peace.

      • Galileo Galilei says:

        To my knowledge Willie Nelson has not been busted for years now. It’s getting so I don’t feel safe in the streets.

        • Julian says:

          I knoooow! How will boss hog ever make payroll if he cant keep catching ol Willey? It was like an episode of roadrunner (but the smoke wasnt from the road dust).
          Truth is the federal money dried up a while back in Hudspeth county Texas where they kept stopping Willie and Snoop Dog for that matter. Turns out ol Boss Hog Sheriff of Hudspeth was only arresting Willie for the federal quota. Soon as the grant dried up, so did the arrests. At least there’s something our legislators can reach bipartisan agreement on; no more federal prison contracts!

    4. mexweed says:

      The 2014 Surgeon General estimate of cost to US economy of tobacco-related (oops I almost said -assisted) disease, $289-bil., included over $150-bil. from job absenteeism… now this study shows increased employment and work hours in MMJ states— could it be partly because more seniors are SUBSTITUTING MMJ for tobacco?

      Just as “Patients report using the product as a substitute for prescriptive medications”, also “Alcohol, heroin and tobacco use declines following passage of an MML”. That decline in tobacco use then leads to increased work hours.

      May I add another speculation: while one recent estimate was that worldwide 94% of tobacco use was via the $igarette format, 5% cigars, 1% pipes, cannabis users are already 15% into Vaping (which you CAN DO with a flexdrawtube oneheater– thus switching to cannabis but not to the Joint may have helped some seniors also get rid of Puffpaper Monoxide and 4221 combustion toxins?

    5. Don B says:

      Is this one of the dreaded “unintended consequences” of legalization?

      • Julian says:

        Yeah, pretty soon “Big Marijuana” will have older generations running around enjoying life, exercising and throwing away their prescription meds! What is this world coming to?!!

        • mexweed says:

          Thanks, @Julian, your thought is mostly correct but you misspoke– not Big Marijuana (500-mg Hot Burning Overdose Monoxide Paperpuffin Joint) but Little Marijuana (25-mg vapetoke of sifted herb in flexdrawtube oneheater) promotes vitality, exercise, achievement– and $aves a $#!+load of money.

    6. Mark I. says:

      Personal use of cannabis shows all the truth. How different would our world be today if the truth and not somebodies profits garnered the media? How many americans would respect each other and authorities if their efforts were based on the truth and not disruptive controls used like an overreaching parent?

      • Mark Mitcham says:


        Without getting all mystical, or making an appeal to the supernatural, let me just say this: Truth is like oxygen for the human soul, which will suffocate without it, eventually.

        Marijuana prohibition is founded on lies, and justified and perpetuated by lies. To believe these lies, to accept these lies as truth, is to be deceived. A soul in these circumstances will suffocate; the soul dies, and the mind separates from reality. Individuals like this will say, “Who’s to say what’s true? Who’s to say your beliefs are any better than mine?” But, the problem with that is, just because one believes a thing, doesn’t make that thing true.

        Yet there is hope, because Truth can breath new life into one’s soul, and it can help to heal the mind, which has been cracking under the pressure of living in a state of delusion.

        And, absolutely! –cannabis can promote and facilitate that healing! Consequently, it can play a part in making the world a better place in which to live.

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          I’m using the word “soul” here in a non-supernatural sense of the word. I am referring to a fully integrated “self.”

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