Let’s Be Blunt: Marijuana Is a Boon for Older Workers (Ep. 459)


The state-by-state rollout of legalized weed has given economists a perfect natural experiment to measure its effects. Here’s what we know so far — and don’t know — about the costs and benefits of legalization.

Listen and subscribe to our podcast at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or elsewhere. Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

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Hey there, it’s Stephen Dubner. Before today’s episode, I’d like to tell you about a brand-new podcast that I think you’ll be interested in. It’s called Sudhir Breaks the Internet. Sudhir Venkatesh is a sociologist, at Columbia University, who during the first couple decades of his career embedded himself with drug gangs and gun runners and sex workers. He then wrote a fascinating book called Gang Leader for a Day. One person who read the book was Mark Zuckerberg; he asked Sudhir to come work at Facebook. Sudhir then spent three years at Facebook and the next two at Twitter. Both companies wanted him to apply the tools of sociology to address things like hate speech and bullying, maybe any incipient plans for an insurrection. Now that Sudhir is out of Silicon Valley, he’s taking a long, hard look at the people who run our digital universe — the massive promise of these platforms, and the massive problems too. The result is Sudhir Breaks the Internet. It’s the latest show from the Freakonomics Radio Network. You can get it now on any podcast app. Here is today’s Freakonomics Radio episode.

Stephen DUBNER: Let’s have a little thought experiment. Imagine that civilization had somehow gotten to where we’ve gotten in 2021 without the use of either marijuana or alcohol. And they’re both discovered overnight. How would you imagine that those two substances would be regulated, distributed, priced, etc., compared to how they are now? 

Catherine MACLEAN: I think that’s a great question. I think it would be hard if they were just discovered today not to treat them as equal. My opinion is, it’s more of a social construct.

That is Catherine Maclean. She is an economist at Temple University in Philadelphia. She researches substance use and mental health — and how they intersect with government policy.

MACLEAN: You might call this a bit of me-search. Members of my family have suffered and continue to suffer from both mental illness and substance use. So I have seen the implications for families and individuals.

So in our thought experiment, if Maclean had to endorse either alcohol or marijuana.

MACLEAN: I think, in this counterfactual world where both are discovered today and regulated similarly, I think I’d go with marijuana. 

DUBNER: Because why? 

MACLEAN: My sense is that it is less correlated with a lot of adverse outcomes. And this is already in a context where the two substances are regulated quite differently. So if they were on an even playing field, if we’d be removing a lot of the criminal consequences and such, it would be hard for me to think about a case where a drug like marijuana, that has different euphoric properties from alcohol, it’s less likely to — of course, this is on averages, individuals respond differently to different types of drugs — it’s less associated with aggression, violence, these sorts of things. So that would be my opinion. 

DUBNER: Just to acknowledge any possible conflict of interest, let me ask: are you now, or have you ever been a marijuana user? 

MACLEAN: I have consumed marijuana in the past, yes.

DUBNER: But you didn’t inhale, I’m sure. And how would you describe your experience?

MACLEAN: I have used the product recreationally in the past. I would not call it unsuccessful, I guess.

Today on Freakonomics Radio, as more and more states allow not only medical but recreational use of marijuana, Catherine Maclean helps us move from thought experiment to real-world experiment:

MACLEAN: They reported less chronic pain, better self-assessed health.

We look at some unintended consequences.

MACLEAN: Well, I think that that’s a bit of a loophole.

And: we try to extrapolate what we know so far about marijuana use to what we’d like to know:

MACLEAN: Extrapolation can be a bit of a dangerous tool.

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On the federal level, marijuana is still illegal in the U.S. But many states have either decriminalized it or made it legal for medicinal and even recreational use. California was the first state to allow medical use; that was in 1996. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to allow recreational use. As of April 2021, marijuana has been declared fully legal in more than a dozen states, with many others allowing medical use only. As you have likely learned from Freakonomics Radio over the years, this kind of staggered policy rollout can be useful to an economist like Catherine Maclean. It provides a natural experiment to help isolate and measure the impact of the policy change.

MACLEAN: So we’re comparing outcomes in states that adopt versus those that do not adopt a particular policy — in our case, a medical marijuana law or a recreational marijuana law. 

The body of research on the effects of marijuana is, to be blunt, mixed. Some research shows that heavy use is tied to serious cognitive impairment. Some research shows that marijuana can reduce aggression, as Maclean told us, and relieve chronic pain. But the truth is, we don’t know nearly as much about the effects of marijuana as you might think. Why don’t we know more?

MACLEAN: So currently in the U.S., marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug.  

That’s according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

MACLEAN: So that’s alongside drugs like heroin. That means lots of things, one of which: it’s very challenging to test in randomized controlled trials. Why is that? Because randomized controlled trials that are funded by the government, which many of them are, you can only purchase marijuana through a couple of labs across the entire country.

There’s actually just one authorized grower of research-grade marijuana, at the University of Mississippi, although the D.E.A. says it plans to allow more.

MACLEAN: In addition, the marijuana that can be purchased through these labs is very different, much less potent than what consumers are actually using when they purchase it legally or illegally.

So you can see why Maclean would be excited to exploit the staggered state-by-state rollout of marijuana legalization. She embarked on a series of research papers along with a crew of other economists: Rahi Abouk, Keshar Ghimire, Lauren Hersch Nicholas, and David Powell.

MACLEAN: The idea was broadly the same for all of these papers: that marijuana can be used medically to treat many health conditions.

They zeroed in on one particular demographic.

MACLEAN: What we do is we focus on older adults.

Why older adults instead of younger adults or even teenagers?

MACLEAN: Older adults are more likely to have the health conditions for which marijuana is an effective treatment. They’re also the population most likely to exit the labor market due to poor health. The idea was: Is this a medical intervention that can keep older adults working? Because if you play things out, we can think about keeping older adults working longer. So this could be beneficial just for their own economic stability. Also if we’re thinking about Social Security, keeping folks working can potentially expand the lifespan of Social Security.

DUBNER: You sound like such an economist all of a sudden. You’re worried about milking all the extra years of labor out of these old people who have strained backs. Just have them smoke some dope and get back in there!  

Even though 60 percent of Americans support fully legalizing marijuana, with another nearly 30 percent in favor of at least medical use, only about 18 percent of Americans ages 12 and up are estimated to use marijuana.

MACLEAN: Also, of course, when everyone is doing research on substance use where we’re relying upon self-reported data, which is what I’m doing, there’s probably some underreporting.

DUBNER: Suffice it to say, however, most people are not using marijuana, correct? 

MACLEAN: Yes.

And the share of medical marijuana users is substantially smaller — anywhere from a fraction of 1 percent of some states’ populations to nearly 8 percent in others.

MACLEAN: I think that’s where the work that I’m doing on recreational marijuana is important because a lot of folks will think that the recreational is recreational only. A lot of folks may begin to use marijuana medically post-recreational marijuana law because either they weren’t eligible through the medical marijuana laws or there may have been other concerns like stigma, safety, just difficulty accessing the product.

The first step in getting hold of medical marijuana is to have a qualifying health condition. 

MACLEAN: These can be things like chronic pain, cancer, arthritis, nausea, several mental health conditions like P.T.S.D.  

But qualifying conditions vary from state to state.

MACLEAN: Some states are very liberal. Some states, like Pennsylvania, are conservative. There’s also other barriers. For example, federal healthcare facilities — because marijuana is prohibited federally, they’re not able to engage with marijuana as a medical product because they are a federal facility.

Maclean’s first research paper on this topic looked at how marijuana might affect what economists call the work capacity of older adults. The data came from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal survey that’s been going on for years. It doesn’t ask about marijuana use but it does include a lot of information about employment and health.

MACLEAN: So we can look at things like, did you have arthritis in the past? Did you have cancer treatment? When we look at a group of people who have many of the health conditions that would qualify them for medical marijuana in their state, those are the people who are most likely to take up medical marijuana. So we can really zoom in on a sample that’s likely to use the product medically. 

So the researchers are isolating the people who might be most inclined to use medical marijuana — even though, again, they didn’t have the data to say whether a given person did or not. They could then look at the employment status of the people in their sample — Did they work in the past year? Did they work full-time? And so on. And then — this is the important part — the researchers could see if those people lived in a state where medical marijuana had been legalized.

MACLEAN: Broadly, following a medical marijuana law, we found that implementation leads to reductions in self reports of chronic pain, and improved the probability of reporting very good or excellent health. We also saw that individuals were better able to work — that is, they were better able to engage in paid employment — following a medical marijuana law. So we saw increases in the probability of working full-time. We saw increases in the number of hours worked. But what we didn’t see is changes in the probability of working. We weren’t seeing folks being drawn into the labor market or perhaps returning from retirement. But amongst those who remained employed, we were seeing that they were more likely to work full-time, and they worked more hours per week.

So this suggests that older workers are significantly more able to work if they have access to medical marijuana. The next couple studies Maclean and her co-authors did looked at workers’ compensation claims.

MACLEAN: These are workers who become injured or ill while working, and they require time away from work to recover from the illness.

Once again, the researchers looked at how things differed in states that did and did not adopt a medical-marijuana law. What’d they find?

MACLEAN: We found that there was a reduction in workers’ compensation claiming of about 7 percent. 

That is, a 7-percent reduction in workers’ comp. claims in the states that did legalize medical marijuana.

MACLEAN: So that was not huge, but perhaps not small.

The researchers then divided their results by age: anyone from 23 to 39 was classified as a “younger adult,” and anyone from 40 to 62, an “older adult.”

MACLEAN: We found that the effects were concentrated amongst the older adults, where we saw about a 13 percent reduction in the probability of receiving workers’ compensation income. Amongst the younger adults we didn’t find any statistically significant evidence that there were changes in workers’ compensation income receipt. 

The researchers then did the same analysis for states that did and did not legalize recreational marijuana. Now they found even larger declines in workers-comp. claims among older workers.

MACLEAN: We’re seeing a reduction of about 20 percent. 

Typically, when a state legalizes recreational marijuana, it has already made medical marijuana legal. So why would the addition of the recreational law trigger this further decline in workers’ comp?

MACLEAN: I think it’s many, many things. When nicotine-replacement therapies went over-the-counter for smoking cessation, we saw increases in utilization simply from going from requiring a prescription to going to over-the-counter. There’s probably a financial cost, because the healthcare professional visit can be quite costly, particularly if someone doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have generous insurance. You can also think about the hassle costs, that you have to go to the doctor, get a prescription, and then fill the prescription, where now you can just go to your C.V.S. and purchase the product.  

So that’s the analogy for nicotine-replacement therapy. There may be even more layers to consider when you’re talking about marijuana.

MACLEAN: You can also think about stigma. Consumers may view something that is now legalized and you don’t have to go see the healthcare professional, maybe that this is somehow a safer product. Perhaps there’s just knowledge gains about this product, could be helpful for you when it’s more openly discussed and more broadly used. 

DUBNER: The people in your study — older adults who are using marijuana and you find that they are filing fewer workers’ comp. claims, which assumes that they are working, do we know anything about when they’re using their marijuana and if they’re going to work high? And if so, is that a really bad idea? 

MACLEAN: Those are excellent questions. I do not have the data to know that. What I can say is that in all of the states that have legalized that I have reviewed the employer can still have a zero-tolerance law on the books. So even if you are using recreational marijuana in a state where that’s legalized, if you fail a drug test, you can lose your job. 

DUBNER: Really? 

MACLEAN: Yes. 

DUBNER: Doesn’t that seem a little illegal? 

MACLEAN: Well, I think that that’s a bit of a loophole. There’s a really interesting discussion to be had, this tradeoff that the employer may face in terms of drug testing when it comes into the space of marijuana. If you think about the different drugs, things like cocaine or other perhaps harder drugs than marijuana, many of those harder drugs or alcohol will leave the system much faster than marijuana will. Marijuana can remain in the system for weeks or perhaps even a month. So if you’re thinking about drug testing, there’s this sort of perverse incentive. You could incentivize workers to shift towards substances that leave the body more quickly, which may not be desirable. I’ve only heard this discussion amongst employers. I myself have not seen any evidence. But I do think it’s an interesting question, and highlights the difficulty with having these legalized substances.

It also highlights the difficulty of making drug policy generally. It’s not quite Newton’s third law — for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction — but it’s the same idea. There are a lot of potential benefits to legalizing marijuana: fewer people in prison, more tax dollars, more enjoyment, more pain relief. But there are potential costs too, including the unintended consequences.

MACLEAN: Anyone who says that policy making is easy is wrong.

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Catherine Maclean, an economist at Temple University, has co-authored several papers analyzing how the legalization of marijuana affects workers, especially older adults. The evidence we’ve heard so far — from workers’ comp. claims and from a long-standing health-and-retirement study — suggests that marijuana is making it easier to keep working or get back to work after an injury or illness. Maclean and her co-authors were also interested in how marijuana legalization affected disability claims. They looked at two benefits programs administered by the Social Security Administration: S.S.D.I., or Social Security Disability Insurance, and S.S.I., or Supplemental Security Income. S.S.D.I. is for adults who have a disability and who have worked, while S.S.I. is for adults and children with disabilities, regardless of work status. Based on their other findings, Maclean and her colleagues hypothesized that access to marijuana might drive down disability claims as well, especially for people who were on the fence about filing a claim.

MACLEAN: So our idea was broadly: marijuana will allow for better symptom managements for those marginal claimants — and when I mean marginal, I’m not placing a value judgment here; all I’m saying is that they are “on the margin” of whether or not to place a claim. For them, there may be some benefit. We’re not thinking about severely disabled individuals.

So did they find that disability claims also fell once marijuana was legalized in a given state? 

MACLEAN: Following a recreational marijuana law, there are increases in applications for both S.S.D.I. and S.S.I. The effect sizes are not large. They run about 4 to 7 percent. 

Given that workers’ comp. claims went down once marijuana was available, wasn’t it surprising to see disability claims go up?

 MACLEAN: It was a bit surprising, I will certainly say.

But: while disability claims rose after marijuana legalization.

MACLEAN: When we look at the new awards — so those are the applications that are deemed legitimate — we really don’t see much change in the new beneficiaries.

In other words, most of these new applications didn’t land an actual benefit. Still, why would S.S.D.I. and S.S.I. claims rise with marijuana legalization while workers’ comp claims fell?

MACLEAN: There’s a literature suggesting that, in particular, S.S.D.I. has become a substitute for paid employment for some workers. And what we’re thinking is that the costs and benefits that come with applying for S.S.D.I. and S.S.I. are sort of tilted in the favor of an application following a recreational marijuana law.

It could also be that marijuana wasn’t as helpful to people applying for disability claims. Maybe marijuana just doesn’t help those who need these benefits.

MACLEAN: Perhaps they are not effective therapeutic substitutes for the specific health conditions. 

DUBNER: In the broadest sense, when you look at these laws and what happens on the dimensions that you’re examining, who would you describe as being the winners and losers of that legislation?

MACLEAN: Anyone who says that policy making is easy is wrong. It’s hard. With any policy, there are always winners and losers. I think within the context of what we’re thinking about, the winners are individuals who, through the legalization of the product, medical or recreational, are able to use a product to better meet their health conditions and the symptoms associated with their health conditions. Things like chronic pain, mental health. Particularly in the space of workers’ compensation, many of the conditions that lead to workers’ compensation are related to things like strains. And marijuana — while we are not claiming in any of our papers that marijuana is going to improve your health, what we are saying: It is potentially going to allow some individuals to better manage symptoms associated with things like chronic pain. Now, some other winners might be individuals who will use the product recreationally and enjoy the product.

DUBNER: What about employers? I would think that the workers’ comp. finding is good news for employers, yes?

MACLEAN: I would think so. Yes.

DUBNER: Okay, but, I would think that since you are an economist, what you really want to do here is say, “Hey, look, this is the effect of marijuana legalization on one narrow but important outcome, meaning workers’ comp. If you take this effect and aggregate it across the country, let’s say, and even backdate it 20 years, this is how many billions of dollars could have been saved from insurers, firms, and governments.” Aren’t you tempted to put a number on that? 

MACLEAN: I would be tempted if I was focusing on the whole population. We were just more interested in the idea of work capacity in older adults in particular.

DUBNER: So when you look at the full population, are you successful in putting any kind of number on the cost savings of legalized marijuana? 

MACLEAN: I don’t think I would be for recreational yet, because we really haven’t looked at the younger adults. This is something that is very salient about both types of laws, the recreational and the medical laws, is that different groups are going to be using the products differently. So I think that question is something that I hope someone answers. Maybe we’ll circle back to this at some point.

Last year, we put out an episode about scientists who are using drugs including ketamine and M.D.M.A. to treat serious psychiatric ailments like depression and P.T.S.D. It was episode 433, if you want to listen. We also talked about C.B.D., or cannabidiol, one of hundreds of chemicals in the cannabis, or marijuana, plant. It is distinct from T.H.C., or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that gets you high. While marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, the U.S. government did recently legalize C.B.D. This has led to an abundance of C.B.D. oils, drinks, lotions, and more. On that earlier episode, we spoke with Yasmin Hurd, an addiction specialist at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York. She’s been researching the use of C.B.D. to treat opioid addiction, and she made some useful distinctions for us between C.B.D. and T.H.C.

Yasmin HURD: I look at addiction from the perspective of what increases risk. And also I’m a neurobiologist, looking at what happens in the brains of people who have a substance-use disorder. And when we looked at risk factors — you know, early cannabis use, we see strongly increased risk for substance-use disorders later in life, as well as certain psychiatric disorders. And our animal models confirm that.

DUBNER: When you say your animal models confirm that, that suggests that the correlation between early use and later problems is not behavioral. It’s chemical, yes? 

HURD: Correct. So these rats, for example, their mothers tell them to stay away from certain other kids. But they still develop certain sensitivities to opioids, for example, later in life. But in our animal models, we study T.H.C. And one day I said, “Let’s at least look at cannabidiol, C.B.D.” And there we actually saw an opposite effect. We saw that it actually reduced heroin-seeking behavior in the rat model. And then we started thinking, “Wow! Could this potentially work for our human subjects?” And started doing clinical trials.  

So while C.B.D. has a lot of potential, Hurd warns that T.H.C. — and she is hardly the only scientist to argue this — that T.H.C. is not without its potential dangers. This is a point that has tended to get lost as more and more states embrace legalization. Catherine Maclean, the economist, has also considered some costs of legalization.

MACLEAN: There’s some recent work suggesting that recreational marijuana legalization can lead to increases in crime. And crime — in particular violent crime — is very costly to society. A lot of talk has been made that perhaps marijuana is going to be a boon to local economies. I think the jury is still out on that. You really have to think about all of the products that are related. That is, if you can now use marijuana, are you going to reduce using alcohol, both of which are taxed by the government, and how that’s going to flesh out? It’s not entirely clear.

DUBNER: So having heard the results of your research, let me ask you about another potential unintended consequence of marijuana legalization. My layperson’s mind would think, “Well, if you legalize marijuana, presumably a lot of people who might otherwise be using and abusing opioids, especially for pain relief, might instead use marijuana, and that the health outcomes would likely be much better.” Is that layperson’s reckoning close to accurate or totally wrong? 

MACLEAN: No, I think that’s right. You can think about marijuana and opioids as being substitutes, therapeutic substitutes. And in a variety of studies based on a range of different populations, we do see that when you legalize marijuana recreationally, medically, too, we see reductions, sometimes quite large, in terms of opioid-related mortality. And we see across Medicaid populations, Medicare populations, private insurance, we see reductions in opioid prescriptions.  

DUBNER: So given what you’ve been learning about marijuana generally, would your recommendation be that legalization of medical and even recreational marijuana is, on balance, good policy? 

MACLEAN: I would be supportive of it, yes. 

DUBNER: So I’m looking here at a 2006 paper by Ringel et al. about the relationship between high-school marijuana use and annual earnings among young adult males. And it finds that marijuana use in high school affects human capital formation, which means you earn less money in adulthood. If that’s true, that suggests that widespread availability of marijuana can be a pretty damaging consequence for a certain part of the population at least, yeah?   

MACLEAN: One thing I want to clarify, I’m thinking about adult legalization. Now, I’m not so naive that if you say 21 is the age that no one under 21 is going to use the drug. So I think that is true. As I said earlier, no policy decision is easy. You have to think about both the costs and benefits. What we have to think about is what is best for society. We look right now and we see people being incarcerated for many, many years for marijuana use, for marijuana sales. I have to think about that alongside some of these other costs that you have mentioned if we were to legalize. If you look at public support, it has been trending upwards over time, and I think that this is a different period than it was when the Ringel study came out.

DUBNER: I have a question about that kind of finding, which argues that — again, the people who use marijuana more in high school have lower annual earnings later, I think it was at age 29. So in a case like that, I’m curious how confident one can be that that is a causal relationship between the marijuana and the life outcomes. Because it could be that the population of people who use marijuana in high school are more likely to earn less. 

MACLEAN: I think you have hit upon one of the problems, or the challenges, that every empirical paper faces: the omitted-variable bias. It’s very challenging to hold all else equal between those individuals who would use early and later. I think it’s good to be cautious about some of these studies. The work that we are doing, where we are exploiting the experiences of states, we’re using what are referred to as quasi-experimental research methods — they have their limitations, of course. But these methods are generally viewed as providing credible estimates on causal effects of the policy, which is different from saying, “Do you use marijuana when you’re young or do you not?” It’s just very challenging to think you’re going to be able to make everything else the same against someone who uses marijuana in high school and someone who doesn’t. 

DUBNER: Okay, here’s another possible confounding question. This is your own research. You found that people who drink alcohol tend to exercise more than people who don’t drink alcohol. 

MACLEAN: Yes. 

DUBNER: That seems potentially counterintuitive, potentially wildly counterintuitive. How can you account for that, if you can? 

MACLEAN: You dug deep into the vita; that’s an old one. Yes. So I interpret that as an association. I do not stock my claim as an economist saying that that’s a causal effect. It probably isn’t, for many of the things that you’ve just highlighted.

DUBNER: When you say it’s just an association — it may be that the kinds of people who drink a little tend to also be the people who exercise?

MACLEAN: Exactly. This simply could be an income effect. Maybe you have enough income to buy booze and you also have enough income to get a nice, fancy membership at a gym. 

DUBNER: But, the reason that caught my eye was because I have a doctor friend who tells me that her most serious patients, the ones who have the most serious conditions, are ones who drink a lot — which is not surprising, because we know that alcohol consumption has a lot of health deficits — and, she said, the ones who don’t drink at all. She said her abstainers have a lot of conditions. Now, again, I wondered about that. Could it be that they abstain because they’ve had conditions and they’re concerned? But do you know anything about that, what seems to be a health conundrum to me?

MACLEAN: I think that your doctor friend is very wise. I think you’re right. So you can think about these two groups. There could be the very heavy drinkers and certainly this is not good for your health. You can also think about the abstainers. You know, you have to think about why are they abstaining? Maybe they’re abstaining because they had severe alcohol-use disorders in the past, and this has led to health conditions. 

DUBNER: Or a family history—. 

MACLEAN: Sure. Or maybe they just are unhealthy in general. Maybe they have a lot of complex health conditions that perhaps they’re not allowed to drink.

Remember, at the start of this episode, when we imagined a world where alcohol and marijuana were both newly discovered, Catherine Maclean sided with marijuana.

MACLEAN: My sense is that it is less correlated with a lot of adverse outcomes.

In the research we heard about today, Maclean and her collaborators have gone deep on a fairly narrow set of outcomes related to marijuana policy — the health benefits and labor possibilities for older adults. Most of the news there is encouraging. And as more states legalize, we’ll continue to hear evidence for all sorts of other marijuana outcomes. A study by the Kansas City Fed found that in Colorado, one of the first states to allow recreational use, the marijuana industry contributed substantially to employment growth, and Colorado takes in nearly $400 million a year in tax revenues from marijuana, while alcohol sales bring in less than $50 million. That says less about the amount of marijuana consumed in Colorado versus the amount of alcohol and more about the fact that marijuana is taxed at 15 percent — much, much higher than alcohol. And there’s ongoing research on many related subjects, like the relative danger of driving drunk versus driving high.

MACLEAN: I do think there is room for more work. But that being said, legalization seems to be quite popular. If you look at public opinion polls, the support for legalization has been increasing over time. I think a caveat to all of the recreational marijuana studies at this point, including my own, is that we are focusing on these early adopters. You can certainly tell stories that early adopters may be different from later adopters for a variety of reasons. So one always has to be cautious in thinking about how something from Colorado is going to extend to Texas. Extrapolation can be a bit of a dangerous tool. 

I have to say, I love episodes like this one. Catherine Maclean does a great job reminding all of us that getting the right data can be hard, that policymaking is even harder, that things aren’t always what they seem — and even when they are, there’s a lot that we haven’t yet seen that’s worth considering. Thanks to Catherine and her co-authors for their thoughtful research, and thanks to you for listening.

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Freakonomics Radio is produced by Stitcher and Renbud Radio. This episode was produced by Mary Diduch, with help from Lyric Bowditch. Our staff also includes Alison Craiglow, Greg Rippin, Mark McCluskyMatt Hickey, Zack Lapinskiand Emma Tyrrell. We had help this week from Jasmin Klinger. Our theme song is “Mr. Fortune,” by the Hitchhikers; the rest of the music was composed by Luis Guerra. You can subscribe to Freakonomics Radio on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Here’s where you can learn more about the people and ideas in this episode:

SOURCE

RESOURCES

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  • “What Percentage of Americans Smoke Marijuana?” by Zack Hrynowski (Gallup, 2020).
  • “The Effects of Recreational Marijuana Legalization and Dispensing on Opioid Mortality,” by Nathan W. Chan, Jesse Burkhardt, and Matthew Flyr (Economic Inquiry, 2019).
  • “The Contribution of Cannabis Use to Variation in the Incidence of Psychotic Disorder Across Europe (EU-GEI): a Multicentre Case-Control Study,” by Marta Di Forti, Diego Quattrone, Tom P Freeman, Giada Tripoli, Charlotte Gayer-Anderson, Harriet Quigley, Victoria Rodriguez, Hannah E Jongsma, Laura Ferraro, Caterina La Cascia, Prof Daniele La Barbera, Ilaria Tarricone, Prof Domenico Berardi, Prof Andrei Szöke, Prof Celso Arango, Andrea Tortelli, Eva Velthorst, Prof Miguel Bernardo, Cristina Marta Del-Ben, Prof Paulo Rossi Menezes, Prof Jean-Paul Selten, Prof Peter B Jones, James B Kirkbride, Prof Bart PF Rutten, Prof Lieuwe de Haan, Prof Pak C Sham, Prof Jim van Os, Prof Cathryn M Lewis, Prof Michael Lynskey, Prof Craig Morgan, and Prof Robin M Murray (The Lancet, 2019).
  • “State Marijuana Laws and Opioid Overdose Mortality,” by Stanford Chihuri and Guohua Li (Injury Epidemiology, 2019).
  • “The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on the Health and Labor Supply of Older Adults: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study,” by Lauren Hersch Nicholas and Johanna Catherine Maclean (Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2019).
  • “The Farm Bill, Hemp Legalization and the Status of CBD: An Explainer,” by John Hudak (FixGov, 2018).
  • “The Economic Effects of the Marijuana Industry in Colorado,” by Alison Felix (Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, 2018).
  • “Structural Neuroimaging Correlates of Alcohol and Cannabis Use in Adolescents and Adults,” by Rachel E. Thayer, Sophie YorkWilliams, Hollis C. Karoly, Amithrupa Sabbineni, Sarah Feldstein Ewing, Angela D. Bryan, and Kent E. Hutchison (Addiction, 2017).
  • “Is Legal Pot Crippling Mexican Drug Trafficking Organisations? The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on US Crime,” by Evelina Gavrilova, Takuma Kamada, and Floris Zoutman (The Economic Journal, 2017).
  • “Medical Marijuana and Marijuana Legalization,” by Rosalie Liccardo Pacula and Rosanna Smart (Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 2017).
  • “Subjective Aggression During Alcohol and Cannabis Intoxication Before and After Aggression Exposure,” by E. B. De Sousa Fernandes Perna, E. L. Theunissen, K. P. C. Kuypers, S. W. Toennes, and J. G. Ramaekers (Psychopharmacology, 2016)
  • “Medical Marijuana and Chronic Pain: a Review of Basic Science and Clinical Evidence,” by Bjorn Jensen, Jeffrey Chen, Tim Furnish, and Mark Wallace (Current Pain and Headache Reports, 2015).
  • “Comparative Risk Assessment of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis and Other Illicit Drugs Using the Margin of Exposure Approach,” by Dirk W. Lachenmeiera and Jürgen Rehm (Scientific Reports, 2015).
  • “The Implications of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado,” by Andrew A. Monte, Richard D. Zane, and Kennon J. Heard (JAMA, 2015).
  • “Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use,” by Nora D. Volkow, Ruben D. Baler, Wilson M. Compton, and Susan R.B. Weiss (New England Journal of Medicine, 2014).
  • “Marijuana vs. Alcohol: Which Is Really Worse for Your Health?” by Joe Brownstein (Live Science, 2014).
  • “Colorado, Washington Become First States to Legalize Recreational Marijuana,” by Christina Ng, Abby Phillips, and Clayton Sandell (ABC News, 2012).
  • “An Evidence Based Review of Acute and Long-Term Effects of Cannabis Use on Executive Cognitive Functions,” by Rebecca D. Crean, Natania A. Crane, and Barbara J. Mason (Journal of Addiction Medicine, 2011).
  • “Do Alcohol Consumers Exercise More? Findings from a National Survey,” by Michael T. French, Ioana Popovici, and Johanna Catherine Maclean (American Journal of Health Promotion, 2009).
  • “The Relationship Between High School Marijuana Use and Annual Earnings Among Young Adult Males,” by Jeanne S. Ringel, Phyllis L. Ellickson, and Rebecca L. Collins (Contemporary Economic Policy, 2006).

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