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.

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