Marijuana Testing: Why employers still need to do it
Business owners and managers of mission-critically important work teams have enough to study and stay on top of without also having to track whether employees are showing up to work under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. However, American workers are testing positive for drug use at the highest rates in nearly two decades, according to global diagnostic information services provider Quest Diagnostics.
For companies, this increases risk of liabilities, jeopardizes workplace safety and compromises worker productivity. Drug use also can lower employee and customer satisfaction.
In this post, Accredited Drug Testing is going to take a look at the following:
- Rates of positive drug tests among American workers
- What employers need to know about THC testing
- Why employers need to test for THC
Rates of positive drug tests among American workers
Quest analyzed 9 million drug tests conducted in 2019 and found that 5.3 percent of the general workforce tested positive for illicit drugs, up from 5.1 percent the previous year. The firm also found that another 2.4 percent of workers in safety-sensitive jobs regulated by federal law — such as positions in the aviation, construction, rail and trucking industries — tested positive for illicit drug use.
THC, the active ingredient in the cannabis plant found in marijuana and THC-infused edibles and an array of body products, remains the most detected illicit substance in workplace-related testing across all labor categories and test specimen types — hair, oral fluid and hair. The Quest analysis found that 2.5 percent of workers and job applicants overall tested positive for THC — or roughly 4.1 million workers in a national labor force of approximately 164.6 million reported at the start of 2020. The report also notes that workers in the retail industry had the highest overall positive drug-test rate, while workers in the hospitality and food service sectors reported the highest positive rates for THC.
What employers need to know about THC testing
First and foremost, employers need to know it is legal in all 50 states for them to administer drug tests for THC to job applicants and employees. Employers also can prohibit workers from using the drug on the job, from possessing it in the workplace and from being at work while impaired by the drug.
At the same time, employers should be fully aware of federal, state and local laws related to THC use and employment. These are among the questions employers should ask and answer:
- What are the THC laws related to employment in my state? My county? My city?
- Is my company’s drug-free workplace policy updated to reflect current laws regarding THC?
- Is my company consistently and fully following our drug-free workplace policy?
- Is my company federally regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and, if so, is my company fully compliant with DOT regulations?
- Can I fire an employee who tests positive for THC?
- If a job applicant tests positive for THC, could that person still be hired?
Federal law for employers regulated by the DOT is firm and clear: THC use is prohibited, and a positive test result from a DOT test is an employment violation that has consequences. However, state and local laws regarding THC vary, and employers should be aware of them. For example, pre-employment drug testing for THC is legal, but there are notable exceptions in New York City and the states of Nevada and Oklahoma.
Why employers need to test for THC
A robust body of medical literature shows THC use has concerning health effects that can, in turn, have a negative impact on any workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports several of these negative health effects, including:
- Addiction to the drug
- Slower reaction time, decision making, distorted perception and impaired coordination — all of which can compromise skills required for safe driving.
- Disorientation, paranoia and temporary psychosis;
- Higher blood pressure and elevated heart rate immediately after marijuana use, and increased risk of stroke, heart disease and other vascular diseases with frequent marijuana use.A positive drug test result does not prove impairment or the presence of any health problem; however, it does provide evidence the person had a drug or drugs in their system at the time of the test. Some states that have sanctioned THC use go a step further and require employers to prove there is a connection between a positive drug test result and actual impairment before they take adverse employment action.As a result, the issue of how long marijuana impairment can last after use is of growing concern for employers — and it is a critical point to consider when choosing a drug testing method because test methodologies have specific timeframes for drug detection.