Over the past several years, the medical benefits of marijuana have continuously been tested and have slowly but surely become more well-known and accepted. And seeing as how there are about 31 million injuries that require medical attention each year, more and more people are realizing the benefits of medical marijuana. But despite the benefits it can offer, employers continue to test employees and job candidates for cannabis use. However, a new study shows that this testing can actually to lead to a less safe work environment.

Data published in The International Journal of Drug Policy shows that an increase in medical cannabis access is associated with continuous decreases in fatal workplace accidents.

Researchers at Colorado State University, Montana State University, and American University in Washington D.C. looked at the connection and relationship between medical marijuana use and workplace accidents. The data reviewed was from 1992 to 2015, which involved years before and after the nation's first state legalization measure was enacted.

According to the researchers, “Legalizing medical marijuana was associated with a 19.5% reduction in the expected number of workplace fatalities among workers aged 25-44. The association between legalizing medical marijuana and workplace fatalities among workers aged 25-44 grew stronger over time."

Overall the data shows that workplace deaths decreased by about 34% five years after medical marijuana had become legal. However, since this is the first research of its kind on this subject, the researchers note that results could have gone in different directions.

The researchers also note that if employees are using medical marijuana as opposed to pharmaceuticals or alcohol, the risk of being injured or killed on the job could be even lower. And the data shows this is a strong possibility, with lower rates of workplace fatalities occurring in states with pain as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis.

And yet in spite of all of the data that shows medical marijuana can help reduce workplace incidents, some employers can still continue to drug test employees for cannabis — and employees can be punished for cannabis use, even if it's for medical purposes.

Employers consider a lot of factors before deciding to hire someone — with 93% of job recruiters reviewing a candidate's social media profile first. And often, employees are subjected to drug tests before being offered a position. But when employees need medical marijuana to manage pain or illnesses, this becomes a concern.

New Jersey is the most recent state to allow employers to continue drug testing. A federal judge has recently given a New Jersey business permission to carry out drug testing for employees. And New Jersey employees aren't alone in this. In fact, even though 31 states have legalized medical marijuana, only nine states have employment protection for employees who use medical cannabis.

While federal law enforcement remains extremely skeptical of decriminalizing marijuana under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, state laws continue to move closer to full legalization. California recently joined Colorado and others in legalizing recreational marijuana. And as more states change their laws, medical cannabis patients have hope that new laws will continue to be passed to protect their employment rights.

More and more research continues to be done on the benefits of medical marijuana. And as they become more accepted, it's believed that employment protection for medical cannabis patients will continue to evolve.
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