Workers Are Smoking Cannabis More Than Ever so Employers Increasingly Drop Marijuana Testing

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Marijuana is now legal in nine states and Washington, D.C., meaning more than one in five American adults can eat, drink, smoke or vape as they please. The result is the slow decline of pre-employment drug tests, which for decades had been a requirement for new recruits in industries ranging from manufacturing to finance.

According to a new study, American workers are smoking a lot more weed than ever, and American providers are adapting by revising their drug testing policies.

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The study, released final month by the drug testing firm Quest Diagnostics, assessed more than 9 million urine tests. It located that marijuana use amongst American workers has jumped 16 % given that 2014. In 2014, Colorado and Washington became the 1st US states to legalize recreational weed sales. Given that then, yet another six states and DC legalized, also.

Extra workers are attempting to beat drug tests as properly, as Quest saw 40 % a lot more invalid test submissions involving 2017 and 2018.

The study also located that cocaine and meth use elevated given that 2014, hitting their highest prices across a 14-year period. But there’s excellent news: opioid use fell by 37 % given that 2015, when opioid use reached an all-time higher.

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As of the beginning of 2018, Excellence Health Inc., a Las Vegas-based health care company with around 6,000 employees, no longer drug tests people coming to work for the pharmaceutical side of the business. The company stopped testing for marijuana two years ago. “We don’t care what people do in their free time,” said Liam Meyer, a company spokesperson. “We want to help these people, instead of saying: ‘Hey, you can’t work for us because you used a substance,'” he added. The company also added a hotline for any workers who might be struggling with drug use.

Last month, AutoNation Inc., the largest U.S. auto dealer, announced it would no longer refuse job applicants who tested positive for weed. The Denver Post, owned by Digital First Media, ended pre-employment drug testing for all non-safety sensitive positions in September 2016.

So far, companies in states that have legalized either recreational or medicinal marijuana are leading the way on dropping drug tests. A survey last year by the Mountain States Employers Council of 609 Colorado employers found that the share of companies testing for marijuana use fell to 66 percent, down from 77 percent the year before.

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Drug testing restricts the job pool, and in the current tight labor market, that’s having an impact on productivity and growth. In surveys done by the Federal Reserve last year, employers cited an inability by applicants to pass drug tests among reasons for difficulties in hiring. Failed tests reached an all-time high in 2017, according to data from Quest Diagnostics Inc. That’s likely to get worse as more people partake in state-legalized cannabis.

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“The benefits of at least reconsidering the drug policy on behalf of an employer would be pretty high,” said Jeremy Kidd, a professor at Mercer Law School, who wrote a paper on the economics of workplace drug testing. “A blanket prohibition can’t possibly be the most economically efficient policy.”

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Companies are having a hard enough time hiring, with unemployment hovering around 4 percent. “Employers are really strapped and saying ‘We’re going to forgive certain things,'” said James Reidy, a lawyer that works with employers on their human resources policies. Reidy knows of a half-dozen other large employers that have quietly changed their policies in recent years. Not all companies want to advertise the change, fearing it might imply they are soft on drugs. (Even former FBI director James Comey in 2014 half-joked about the need for the bureau to re-evaluate its drug-testing policy to attract the best candidates.)

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Why the change? Pre-employment testing is no longer worth the expense in a society increasingly accepting of drug use. A Gallup poll in October found that 64 percent of Americans favor legalization. That’s the most since the company first started asking the question in 1969, when only 12 percent supported changing the plant’s status. Drug tests costs from $30 to $50 a pop, but the potential costs to an employer are far greater than the actual test.

In addition to helping ease the labor market, eliminating drug testing could have even broader benefits for the economy, said Kidd. Employers could hire the best, theoretically most-productive workers, he said, instead of rejecting people based on their recreational habits. Companies have said they lose out to foreign competitors because they can’t find people who can pass drugs tests, a particularly acute problem in the areas most affected by the opioid crisis.

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Marijuana use by adults in the U.S. almost doubled between 1984 and 2015, according to a 2017 study. Michael Clarkson, chair of Ogletree Deakins’ drug-testing practice group in Boston, said one of his clients couldn’t staff its third shift if it screened for marijuana and was considering stopping the testing. “I’m sure they’re not alone,” he said.

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In several states—including Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts—courts have ruled that an employee testing positive for marijuana has a viable claim against an employer for enforcing drug-free workplace policies, Clarkson said.

In 12 states—Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island—medical marijuana users have certain job protections, so pre-employment screens or random screens could trigger job protections in those states, he said. That doesn’t mean an employer can’t screen for it, pull a job offer or terminate for a positive marijuana test result, he said.

In deciding how to respond to a positive marijuana test, Clarkson recommended talking with a job candidate or employee about when they used marijuana, how they used it and whether they used it at work. While 11 of the 12 states’ protections for medical marijuana users were based on statutes, Massachusetts’ was judicially created, he observed. This area of the law is moving quickly. He noted that at least 17 other states have legalized medical marijuana but don’t yet have anti-discrimination provisions, he said.

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Nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the use of marijuana use for any reason, but so far Maine is the only state protecting recreational marijuana users in the workplace, he added. Utah and Oklahoma are considering legalizing medical marijuana, and Michigan has a ballot initiative to make marijuana use legal for any reason.

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