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Should I Drug Test My Workforce for Marijuana?

Workplace drug testing became a common practice in the 1980s because of the drug abuse problem that we were experiencing in America. Remember “Just Say No”, and the War on Drugs? Drug testing made sense because employees who are under the influence of drugs are 85% more likely to be injured at work and experience 75% more absenteeism than sober employees, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Traditionally, drug testing included testing for opioids, cocaine, hallucinogenics, amphetamines, benzodiazepines such as xanax and valium, barbiturates and marijuana.

Yet, experience has shown that there is a definite difference between an opiate or cocaine user and a marijuana user. Long before states like Colorado and California started legalizing marijuana, firms started experiencing problems with their drug testing policies. The most common problem was being forced to withdraw an offer from a good applicant because that applicant had tested positive for marijuana. Firms floated the idea of eliminating drug testing just so that they could hire a full workforce or eliminating testing for just marijuana.

Required drug testing:

  • Federal laws that mandate drug testing, such as government contracting rules and Department of Transportation Regulations, require full a full spectrum drug testing that includes marijuana.

Benefits for drug testing:

  • Cost savings: many states, including Florida, provide a discount under the Worker’s Compensation’s policies for employers who have adopted a drug-free workplace policy.
  • Reduced turnover: lower turnover as a result of employees without substance abuse issues and accidents.

The question remains which drugs should an employer test for?

Federal employers must comply with government requirements. For the cost benefits, you may also choose to require full-spectrum testing. If your business doesn’t fall under either of these categories, you may want to consider excluding marijuana from the categories of drugs for which a test is taken. Why?

  • Many states have legalized medical marijuana to treat a variety of ailments. Employees suffering from those ailments arguably have a disability protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Terminating an employee pursuant to a drug testing policy because of the particular prescribed medication being used to treat the employee most likely violates the ADA and similar state and local ordinances.
  • Most recreational marijuana users do not use at work, nor do they experience lingering effects from prior use, such as the evening before.
  • From a practical standpoint, since at least 20% of the population of this country uses marijuana, a policy that weeds out (no pun intended) recreational marijuana users will eliminate a significant portion of the population from consideration. A much higher percentage of the population uses alcohol, yet employers rarely conduct sobriety tests. The primary reason that such tests are unnecessary is that social drinking does not translate into workplace drunkenness. Likewise, recreational marijuana use does not automatically translate into stoners at work. However, marijuana can be detected in a blood test for up to a month after ingestion; yet alcohol is untraceable after hours. If the purpose of testing is to avoid impairment at work, then marijuana testing is a dull tool for identifying impaired employees at work since it measures usage over a long time period.

The decision to drug test, or to eliminate certain drugs from testing, is not an easy decision to make. There are many factors to consider that range from workplace safety and ADA consideration to tight labor markets. HR Risk Advisor can help you make reasoned decisions that protect your business while growing your business. Call us today for a free consultation at (954) 552 5162.