With medical marijuana becoming more common-place across the United States – including in our home state of Florida – it is an issue that I am discussing with clients more and more often. Recently, a working paper on medical marijuana laws and the impact they have on Social Security claims was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The authors of the paper note that “[w]hile the clinical literature on marijuana is nascent, the available studies suggest a role for medical marijuana in symptom management for many common health conditions. Indeed, randomized control trials show that medical marijuana can effectively treat symptoms associated with anxiety, chronic pain, depression, psychosis, sleep disorders, and spasticity.”
The authors also recognize that many of the health conditions that qualify for medical marijuana through the state are also health conditions that may lead to a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim, such as back injuries, multiple sclerosis, and anxiety.
Interestingly, the authors of the paper found that when a state passes a medical marijuana law, the claims to SSDI benefits rises by 9.9% and the benefits paid out in the state increase by 2.6%. These increases could have a variety of reasons behind them, but two of the reasons I would put forth are:
(1) if your condition is severe enough to warrant a medical marijuana license, it is severe enough to prevent you from working in any capacity, and therefore, is severe enough to receive SSDI benefits; or
(2) that the physicians who are permitted to prescribe medical marijuana are more skilled in understanding the conditions that benefit from medical marijuana, and can therefore, prescribe it at a rate concurrent with severity of condition and likelihood of SSDI approval.
Others have said that the effect of medical marijuana on SSDI claims is small and that “if there is an effect, it may be a little less direct than the authors (who are economists) think. My guess is that if there is an effect, it would be because marijuana lessens the effectiveness of medications given for mental health problems such as bipolar disorder.”
Anything is possible, but it is certainly an interesting topic to think about, and a debate that is likely just getting started.
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