Hemp may reduce workplace medical absenteeism.
Increasingly outdated beliefs surrounding cannabis and hemp would tell you that consuming these plants will turn you into a lazy, jobless stoner. However, a recent study has actually shown that workplace absences due to sickness have declined in US states that allow at least medical cannabis1.
This study was based on the Current Population Survey, a monthly survey of sixty thousand households performed by the Census Bureau. Researchers were partly motivated by a previous study showing that alcohol consumption dropped after medical legalization. Titled The Effect of Medical Marijuana on Sickness Absence, this study found that the strongest effects were in states with the most liberal regulations, full-time workers and middle-aged males, the demographic most likely to have medical cannabis cards2. There was an 8% reduction in medical leave among the whole sample, and an 11% reduction among the full-time workers. In states with more liberal laws, medical absences dropped by 13%. Why is this important? The cost of absenteeism to the US economy is around 24 billion dollars a year. Much of this would have otherwise been spent in turn on things that lead to creation of more jobs. It has also been estimated that the wage offset of a 1% increase in the absence rate is 56 cents. Therefore, it could also reduce costs to the employers.
Some of the causes of workplace absenteeism are physical illness, depression and caring for children or aged relatives3. One of the problems hemp may help to relieve is depression and anxiety4. Both of these are affected by issues with serotonin function in the brain. Research has shown that cannabidiol (CBD) could act on the receptors that control release of serotonin into the brain, as mice given drugs that block this receptor had no benefit from CBD. Similarities between CBD and a known stimulant of this receptor were also observed in a study where people with social anxiety experienced significant relief after CBD administration. Additionally, chronic pain, from issues such as inflammatory disorders or old injuries, can be a cause of repeated workplace absences. Studies have found that CBD may reduce levels of chemicals produced by the body that promote pain and inflammation5. Other cannabinoids such as CBC and CBG have also shown analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, and so have some terpenes including beta-myrcene.
To put human faces onto this, one woman speaking to the Victorian Law Reform Commission in Australia said that after she started using cannabis for chronic pain, she was able to return to work6. Previously, she had suffered from chronic pain and resulting intense nausea as a result of past injuries. Another woman who also stated she was suffering from chronic pain, this time from prolapsed discs and arthritis. As morphine made her sleep 22 hours a day, she couldn’t work or study. With cannabis, she said she could stay awake for the whole day. Overall, hemp has economic benefits beyond that of its own industry, the negative stereotypes from its association with its psychoactive cousin are both inaccurate and unfair.
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