Regarding Marijuana in the Workplace
By Joe Reilly, President National Drug Screening, Inc
A friend and the General Manager of an out of state local business asked me the other day an interesting series of questions. The first was “Is it legal to drop marijuana from our drug testing program”. My answer was that in a non-regulated environment there would be nothing illegal about not testing for marijuana; but certainly, the drug-free workplace policy would need to be updated to reflect such a change.
He then asked about the pros and cons of such a decision and decided that the positive aspect would be the ability to easily hire employees. It had been difficult lately because most of his applicants were testing positive for marijuana or not even going for the drug test because they said they knew they would be positive. As his business is in California, he stated this makes it even more difficult as it seems many in California are marijuana users.
I said that perhaps it would be easier to hire employees but perhaps that this easy way out would lead to liabilities down the road. If an employee had an accident and hurt himself or herself and perhaps others and this employee tested positive for marijuana, perhaps the employer could face significant liability. If the individual smokes pot, what are the chances they might use other illegal drugs if they are offered to him or to her. We both agreed this happens often.
Does an employee come to work stoned on pot? We don’t know as there is no current testing available today to determine impairment from use of marijuana.
Employees that are smoking pot are likely to not be as productive and not be as safe as those employees that are not using illegal drugs. Marijuana does have harmful effects on the human body.
My friend works in the hospitality industry, so this makes the conversation even more interesting. In a recent article published in DATIA focus magazine(DATIA merged with NDASA in 2023), Dr. Barry Sample of Quest Diagnostics provided information that the Accommodation and Food Services industry sector, experienced year-over-year increases in marijuana positivity between 2015 and 2017. The increase was 20.7%. The information was based on analysis of over 50,000 urine drug tests in the Accommodation and Food Services industry sector.
The bottom line to this conversation from my point of view is to be diligent in hiring new employees, it is hard work and takes time. Employee drug use has the potential to put workplaces at risk. As Dr. Sample pointed out “While a retail clerk, restaurant server, or nurse may not cause a job-related automobile accident, pipeline explosion, or forklift crash, these and other customer-facing roles are certainly in a position to influence buyer decisions, customer satisfaction, and brand quality in a number of detrimental and hard-to-quantify ways.”
Can you stop testing for marijuana but still test for other drugs, clearly yes for Non-DOT drug testing. But think twice about dropping marijuana from your drug testing program. This decision will take a lot of thought and debate. Either way make sure drug free workplace policies are revised and up to date with best practices and State laws. When revising drug testing policies, consider expanded opiates. Are you testing for hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and oxymorphone?
About the Author – Joe Reilly, President, National Drug Screening, Inc
Joe Reilly entered the world of drug testing in 1993 and over the last 25+ years has become a leading national expert on workplace drug testing, drug free workplace programs and specimen collections for drug tests. When asked about what he likes most about his job today, Joe stated “I do a lot of consulting and training along with expert witness testimony. I really enjoy helping others understand everything about workplace drug testing”.