As increasing numbers of Americans use marijuana, there is a rising risk of job loss among those who use the drug, a new study suggests.
“Job loss may be an overlooked social cost of marijuana use,” said study author Cassandra Okechukwu, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from tens of thousands of people who had jobs or were actively seeking work and took part in nationwide surveys in 2001-02, 2003-04 and 2012-13.
The percentage of those who reported marijuana use in the past year increased from about 4.5 percent in 2001-02 to 10.3 percent in 2012-13. The percentage meeting the criteria for marijuana use disorder increased from 1.2 to 2.6 percent.
Marijuana users were more likely to be fired or laid off, the findings showed. After adjusting for other factors, workers who said they used marijuana in 2001-02 were 27 percent more likely than non-users to report job loss in the 2003-04 follow-up survey.
In the 2012-13 survey, the risk of job loss was 50 percent higher for workers who said they used marijuana than among non-users. That survey also showed a higher rate of job loss for workers who used marijuana weekly or monthly.
Race/ethnicity did not affect the association between marijuana use and risk of job loss, but income did have a significant effect, according to the report.
Overall, marijuana use was linked to increased risk of job loss among both the highest and lowest income earners. But among weekly marijuana users, those with higher incomes were less likely to lose their jobs than those with lower incomes, the researchers found.
The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The results show a sharp rise in marijuana use among U.S. workers, and that it’s associated with a greater risk of being fired or laid off, the study authors said.
Still, the study didn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship between marijuana use and job loss.
“Even though job loss places workers at increased risks for ill-health and occupational injuries, it remains underexplored in discussions of the potential health and social impacts of marijuana use,” Okechukwu’s team said in a journal news release. “Future studies using an occupational health perspective are needed.”