Workers who use marijuana in their off time are at greater risk of losing their jobs

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Research shows marijuana-using employees fired more often than non-users

A recent study has produced some unsettling findings. Researchers have determined that workers who consume marijuana – while not on the clock, of course – are more likely to be fired or laid off than those who do not consume. The study concluded that job loss might be an inadvertent social cost of marijuana use that previously wasn’t considered.

Cassandra A. Okechukwu, ScD, MSN, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, along with her colleagues, published her findings in this month’s edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. In their research, the group looked at data from around 22,000 individuals that responded to a 2001-2002 survey and also to a 2003-2004 survey. They also included similar data from a survey of 21,439 individuals in 2012-2013.

From the earliest to the latest timeframes, the percentage of workers who acknowledged consuming marijuana increased from around 4.5% to 10.25%. This group of employees was more likely to have experienced an unexpected change in job situations, including having been fired or laid off. Based on their calculations, the researchers conclude that marijuana consumers had a 27% chance of losing their jobs in 2001-2002, but this jumped to 50% by the latest survey.

There was no relationship between job loss and race or ethnicity; however, it was influenced by income. Marijuana use was shown to be a factor for someone losing his or her job in both the highest and the lowest income categories, but more so with the lowest category.

The findings led the group to conclude, “Even though job loss places workers at increased risks for ill-health and occupational injuries, it remains under-explored in discussions of the potential health and social impacts of marijuana use. Future studies using an occupational health perspective are needed.”