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Video Blog - Dropping Marijuana from Your Drug Testing Program?

09 May 2016

Thinking About Dropping Marijuana from Your Drug Testing Program?

Can employers still drug test for Marijuana, absolutely yes!  Several states have legalized use of recreational or medical marijuana and a few have begun de-criminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, so perhaps you are considering dropping marijuana from your company drug testing program or possibly dropping drug testing all together. Maybe you think you cannot find needed employees if you test for marijuana. Perhaps there is pressure to allow it because your state says it is ok for some people and in some situations. There are some things that you may want to consider first.

First of all, the sale and use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law in every state in the nation. This is true even in states that permit medical and or recreational marijuana under state laws. The reason it is illegal is that that are no “proven” medical uses for smoking marijuana and it has an impairing effect on individuals that use it. This can lead to many problems in the workplace.

If you have employees that are federally regulated like commercial drivers, airline pilots, flight attendants, railroad engineers and conductors, workers at nuclear power plants and many other safety sensitive positions, you must drug test and that testing includes testing for marijuana. Additionally, numerous employers are government contractors or make use of federal funds for a wide variety of projects. These employers must also drug test to protect the health and safety of all employees as well as the productivity of the workforce.

The Occupational safety and health administration (OSHA) regulations and their state counterparts require employers to provide a workplace free from known or recognizable hazards. Workplace drug testing policies are designed to support essential workplace safety and productivity standards for employers as well as employees.

If you are a subcontractor, you are already aware that many or most general contractors are required to have in place a drug testing program that follows the federal standards and that includes testing for marijuana. The State Supreme Courts of Washington, Oregon, California, Montana and Colorado have ruled that employers can terminate employees who test positive for marijuana even if they have one of those so-called "medical marijuana" cards or letters. Decisions in lower courts and other states have almost always sided with employers who want to have a drug-free workplace. It is important to note that as an employer, having a properly drafted Drug free work place policy and program that is state and federally compliant is essential.

Most of the applicants out there don't use illegal drugs but for those that do, where do you think they are going to apply for work? At a company that has a drug free workplace policy or one without? Remember, over 61% of Americans aged 12 and older with a substance use disorder for drugs other than alcohol are dependent on or abuse marijuana. Making it by far the most prevalent illicit drug abuse in the country.

More Americans are being treated for marijuana than for any other illegal drug. There is also a strong association between marijuana use and diminished lifetime achievement, motor vehicle crashes and symptoms of chronic illness like bronchitis. There's also a relationship between marijuana use and abnormal brain development, progressive abuse of other drugs, schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. Think about what that would do to your employee’s health, their family and co-workers, your insurance premiums, and productivity let alone safety of employees and anyone with whom they interact.

Short-term effects of marijuana use include impaired short-term memory, impaired motor coordination, altered judgment and in high doses paranoia and psychosis. Recent research has shown that chronic marijuana smokers are measurably impaired on tasks related to driving, critical tracking and may have divided attention for at least three weeks after their marijuana use stopped.

Employees who test positive for marijuana have 55% more industrial accidents, 85% more injuries and absentee rates that are 75% higher than those who test negative on pre-employment tests.

Nationally, marijuana remains the second most cited drug, after alcohol, for leading to car crashes. In a study of seriously injured drivers admitted to emergency rooms, more than a quarter tested positive for marijuana. In California, it is reported that there are now more drug drivers on the roads than drunken drivers.

Marijuana related highway crashes have increased 100% between 2007 through 2012 in Colorado where the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana has made the drug available to more people. Think about what that would do to your workers comp, liability and vehicle insurance cost. And again, what about safety?

Extensive research shows that employee who abuse drugs are less productive than workers who do not abuse drugs. Overall, the lost work productivity, including absenteeism and poor job performance associated with substance abuse, accounts for more than two thirds of the total 193 billion dollars that drug abuse costs employers annually. The national Institute on drug abuse has cited several studies linking employee marijuana use with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers compensation claims and job turnover. Think about what that would do to your company's productivity and profitability.

If you do not test for marijuana the word will spread rapidly. There are even websites that tell marijuana users which companies don't test. Pot smokers are welcome here.

Your competitors that do test will be glad to send their rejects to you. It helps to keep their unemployment insurance premiums down. This may be why you are already seeing an increase in marijuana positive tests. What will your customers think when they hear that you do not care if your employees smoke pot. That rumor or get around quickly. Don't be surprised when one of your clients says, "I think I now understand why your company failed to do the job that she agreed to do."

Can you afford the liability or risk? The use of marijuana can impair a worker not just for a couple of hours after using but for 24 hours or more. Even up to 21 days after the last use for chronic smokers. Attorneys know this and can find expert witnesses to testify in a lawsuit. Let's hope it never happens but what if one of your new impaired pot smoking workers causes an accident that results in serious injury, death or extensive damage to the environment. Let your imagination run wild. What is the worst thing that he could possibly do? If you knew he was using illegal drugs, you could even be held liable for an accident that he caused on his way to work in his own vehicle.

For example, the Washington State Supreme Court and many other courts have held that employers have a duty to prevent foreseeable injuries. The authorities will demand a post-accident drug test. When his test comes back positive for marijuana, his coworkers, friends and all sorts of folks who knew him will come out of the wood-work to report that he was an accident ready to happen. That is because of his well-known drug use.

Expect that several previous employers may report that they have fired him because of his drug use and related accidents and so forth. You and your company may now find yourself in the witness box trying to defend your company in a negligent hiring or negligent retention lawsuit. Now, think about this. How are you going to explain to the 12 gray-haired jurors why you thought it was okay to hire marijuana users?

Finally, let’s hear from marijuana users themselves about how they see themselves while under the influence as they describe the state of being high with the words such as: stoned, high, wasted, baked, fried, cooked, toasted, burnt, dazed, bent, couch locked, useless and wrecked.

So you are thinking about dropping your testing for marijuana? Ok, take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center. Write Pros on one side and cons on the other and then compare.