There is likely going to be a change in how businesses drug test employees as marijuana is legalized throughout the country. Recently, a report from Quest Diagnostics, which is a clinical lab, showed the number of workers and U.S. job applicants testing positive for drugs was at a 14-year high. Marijuana was the drug people most commonly tested for, according to Quest.

At the same time, this data was released from Quest, New York City moved to put in place a bill prohibiting businesses from forcing job seekers and candidates to take screening tests for marijuana. As a result, Citigroup told Business Insider they might evaluate their current policy for marijuana screening.

New York is also potentially going to become the 11th state in the nation to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. New York is one of the 33 states that allow for legalized medical marijuana use.

Legal marijuana and workplace drug testing are two things that don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. Drug testing in the workplace is very likely to shift and evolve as policies throughout the nation on the use of marijuana do the same.

Experts also feel drug screening isn’t useful from a business perspective. For example, drug tests don’t necessarily show workplace intoxication, and there are weak links between drug testing job candidates and improved employee performance. Employers also pay significantly for pre-screening drug tests. These tests can cost anywhere from $30 to $50 per test.

Changing Drug Policies

Many employers in states around the country have zero-tolerance policies when it comes to the use of alcohol and illicit substances for safety reasons. However, this poses a problem in states where marijuana is no longer an illicit substance.

While it may be important to ensure employees aren’t using drugs or alcohol on the job for safety reasons, marijuana can show up in a drug screening for long periods after someone uses it. Just because a person tests positive for marijuana doesn’t mean they were under-the-influence of the drug at work.

The 11 states where recreational marijuana use is currently legal include:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Recreational marijuana use is also legal in the District of Columbia.

Many other states allow for medical marijuana use, and some states allow for the sale of products like oils or pills infused with cannabis. Some states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

All of these changes mean there will likely be shifts in how businesses handle marijuana and drug tests.

Will We Stop Drug Testing in the Workplace?

While changes are occurring, there are reasons not to stop drug testing in the workplace altogether. For example, there’s the issue of safety. Many drugs that employers might screen for have a shorter half-life than marijuana and will show up for a shorter window of time, which is a better indicator of whether or not someone might have used them on the job.

In certain industries, in particular, there will likely be ongoing drug testing, and this may continue to include marijuana. For example, construction, transportation, and manufacturing are all industries where stringent drug testing is likely to continue.

There will be ongoing issues for businesses as well, with the changes occurring in marijuana laws. For example, employers already have a difficult time attracting and retaining talent. How does marijuana testing make that even more difficult? Employers have to find a balance between safe, drug-free work environments and the ability to attract the best employees.

One possible option for companies is the use of performance testing as an alternative to urine testing. During performance testing, employees are measured against a baseline if intoxication is suspected. It’s certainly a topic business leaders and hiring managers are likely to keep a close eye on in the coming months and years.

Share on Social Media: