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Medical Marijuana Saves Lives

Workers may be using marijuana instead of alcohol and other, more dangerous, substances.

While countless people credit medical marijuana with relieving their pain or nausea, few would claim it saves lives. But new research suggests it does just that—by reducing the rate of workplace fatalities.

A research team analyzed on-the-job deaths between 1992 and 2015, a period when 24 states and Washington, D.C., effectively legalized medicinal pot. In states that took that step, the number of workplace fatalities among 25- to 44-year-olds fell by 19.5 percent over that period. By the time a state law had been in effect for five years, that figure swelled to 33.7 percent.

This may be "the result of workers substituting marijuana in place of alcohol use and other substances that can impair cognitive function," the researchers write in the International Journal of Drug Policy. They also cite a separate study that found "drivers under the influence of THC appear to take fewer risks"—and a risk-averse worker is less likely to make a fatal mistake.

A version of this story originally appeared in the December/January 2019 issue of Pacific Standard.