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Analysis: Cannabis Use Common for Those Recuperating From Painful Work-Related Injuries

Toronto, Canada: Nearly one-quarter of Canadians with a painful work-related disability use cannabis during their recovery, according to data published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.




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Researchers affiliated with the University of Toronto surveyed 1,650 adults who were disabled due to a physical work injury or illness. They reported that 22.4 percent of those who suffered from a work-related injury that involved “severe pain symptoms” used cannabis as part of their treatment. (Cannabis is legal for both medical and adult-use in Canada.)


Overall, 11.5 percent of all disabled employees reported using cannabis “to manage conditions associated with the work-related injury,” a finding that is consistent with prior studies.


Those who used cannabis products to assist in their recovery generally did not differ from their non-using peers with respect to their disability expenditures or health care benefit expenses.


Authors concluded: “This study is one of a limited number of studies [assessing] the association between cannabis use and disability benefit expenditures in a representative sample of work disability episodes. The evidence presented in this study of working-age adults recovering from a work-related injury or illness does not find a substantial association of cannabis use with disability benefit expenditures and health care benefit expenditures that would suggest either concerning harm, or significant benefit. These findings contribute information to support decision making among clinicians and disability insurance authorities on the potential benefits and risks associated with cannabis use in settings that have legalized cannabis use.”


By contrast, US data reports declines in the number of workers’ compensation filings following the adoption of either medical cannabis legalization or adult-use legalization.

State courts in the United States have issued contradictory opinions regarding whether medical cannabis-related costs are eligible for reimbursement under workers’ compensation laws. Six states — Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Pennsylvania — currently allow for reimbursements. By contrast, seven states (Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Florida, North Dakota, Ohio, and Washington) expressly prohibit workers’ compensation insurance from reimbursing medical marijuana-related costs. Other states are silent on the issue.


NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano recently weighed in on the issue in an op-ed. He wrote:: “Most patients, most physicians, and most state laws view cannabis as a legitimate therapeutic option. Therefore, the millions of Americans who rely upon medical cannabis products ought to be afforded the same entitlements as those who use other conventional medications and therapies. Those privileges should include insurance-provided reimbursement for medical cannabis treatment.”


Full text of the study, “An observational study of pain severity, cannabis use, and benefit expenditures in work disability,” appears in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

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