Tag Archives: employee drug testing

Does Testing Employees for Marijuana Still Make Sense?

Marijuana legalization has been widely debated over the past few years. On the whole, Americans now have a more relaxed attitude toward the substance, which is evident by the widespread legalization for both medical and recreational use. As a result, more and more companies are wondering if testing employees for marijuana still makes sense.


Marijuana Legalization in America

According to Governing Magazine, “Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia currently have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form. Three other states will soon join them after recently passing measures permitting use of medical marijuana.” On top of this, there are currently eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana use including the entire west coast.

As it brings in huge tax revenue (sales were up from $4.8 billion in 2015 to $6.5 billion in 2016), it’s very likely that this pattern will continue and more states will get on board. Not to mention, President Trump was in favor of medical marijuana on his campaign trail.


A Decline in Employee Testing

While this isn’t true for all states, some, like Colorado where recreational marijuana is legal, have seen a decline in employee testing. According to a 2016 survey by the Mountain States Employers Council, “Marijuana testing by Colorado employers has slowly declined over the past two years; 7 percent of the state’s employers dropped it from pre-employment tests, while 3 percent removed it from all employment drug tests.”

There’s a similar trend happening in California and Oregon as well. Oregon even introduced a bill that would prevent employers from firing employees because of using marijuana during their off-duty hours. However, it’s important to point out that this is by no means the norm. A large volume of American employers still test their employees for marijuana and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.


What’s Best for Your Business?

The most important thing is figuring out how your business fits into this equation. Is testing employees for marijuana still a good decision, especially if you’re located in one of the eight states where recreational cannabis use is legal? Although there are a plethora of different factors to consider, you could make the point that your decision hinges largely upon one key detail — whether or not your employees work in “safety-sensitive” positions.

If the use of drugs or alcohol in any form would directly put your workers, customers or the general public at risk, marijuana testing is probably a good idea. For instance, a trucker or forklift operator could both do a great deal of damage if they were working under the influence of marijuana.

However, cannabis testing may very well be more trouble than it’s worth if you employ individuals in positions that aren’t safety-sensitive. In this case, the costs and potential headaches may not justify testing.

The average American’s stance on marijuana has changed considerably in the 21st century. For many, it’s just not that big of a deal anymore. With legalization both medically and recreationally in many states, it’s forcing employers to rethink their drug testing policies. If this is a practice with your employees, it’s definitely worth your time to carefully consider all of the angles and decide what makes the most sense for you.


When Is It Necessary to Test for Drugs and Alcohol?

If your employees abuse drugs and alcohol, it can negatively impact your business in several ways. It can increase the number of accidents, lead to a higher absenteeism rate and reduce productivity. As a result, many employers choose to test for drugs and alcohol with the hopes of minimizing or eliminating the problem. If you’re considering going this route, here is some information concerning the legalities surrounding testing and the pros and cons of implementing a program.


Laws Regarding Employee Drug/Alcohol Testing

When it comes to Federal law, the majority of employers who are not heavily regulated by the government are not required to administer drug testing. As a result, it’s usually up to the employer as to whether or not they want to have an employee drug/alcohol testing program. If you do wish to conduct testing, then it’s crucial that you follow state regulations to ensure that you follow correct procedures, ensure accuracy and prevent workplace discrimination.

Examples of correct procedure include informing applicants that drug/alcohol testing is part of the hiring process, ensuring that tests are administered by a state-certified laboratory, testing all individuals the same way, etc. For more information, you can find a full breakdown of these regulations on the State Drug Testing Laws form.


Reasons for Drug/Alcohol Testing

One of the biggest reasons why employers choose to test is because of the number of employees who report heavily drug or alcohol use. A 2007 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 8.2 percent of full-time workers used illicit drugs, and 8.8 percent were heavy drinkers. These numbers were even higher among the younger demographic where 19 percent of employees between 18 and 25 used illicit drugs, and 16.3 were heavy drinkers.

If you or a trusted source have directly seen an employee using an illicit substance or drinking on the job or displaying erratic behavior, then testing is definitely in order.

Here are some other common reasons to perform testing:

  • It’s a Deterrent – You can weed-out individuals who could be problematic and a liability to your business.
  • Heightened Safety – You reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries.
  • Increased Attendance – The number of absent employees should decline.
  • Lower Health Insurance Costs – You’re likely to get hit with fewer workers’ compensation claims.


Reasons to Not Test

The cost of drug/alcohol testing is perhaps the biggest deterrent. Although the exact pricing on test kits can vary depending upon what type of sample is used and the specific drugs employees are being tested for, you’re typically going to end up paying around $20 to $25 per employee. If you test on a regular basis, then this can become a considerable expense.

Another issue is that not all drugs are easily detectable because they work themselves out of a user’s body within a short period of time. For instance, cocaine can only be detected if it was used within the past 2 to 10 days, and amphetamines can only be detected when used within the past 48 hours. Consequently, attempts to identify drug/alcohol use may at times be futile.

Finally, it can potentially create a rift between you and your employees if they feel like their privacy is being invaded. Although it’s perfectly legal in most cases, some individuals may feel like their rights are being violated.

Drug/alcohol abuse is an unfortunate problem that some employers are forced to deal with. By understanding the testing process, you can make the right decision for your business and keep employee drug/alcohol use in check.