The effect of medical marijuana laws on the health and labor supply of older adults: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study

Lauren Hersch Nicholas, Johanna Catherine Maclean

NBER Working Paper No. 22688
Issued in September 2016, Revised in September 2017
NBER Program(s):Health Economics

We study the effect of state medical marijuana laws on older adult health and labor supply. Older adults have the highest rates of many health conditions for which marijuana may be effective in alleviating work-impeding symptoms, implying that this population is more likely experience health and labor supply benefits from access to marijuana than younger populations. We use the Health and Retirement Study to study these questions and estimate differences-in-differences regression models. Three principle findings emerge from our analysis. First, we document that medical marijuana law passage leads to reductions in chronic pain and improvements in self-assessed health among older adults. Second, we show that passage of a state medical marijuana law leads to increases in older adult labor supply, with effects concentrated on the intensive margin. Third, effects are larger among older adults with a health condition that would qualify for medical marijuana use under state laws. Observed health improvements may allow older workers to increase their participation in the labor market.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22688

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