Marijuana Legalization Is Expanding: Is It Time to Reexamine Your Drug Testing Policies?

With marijuana now legal for medical or recreational use in a stunning 39 states, old-fashioned drug testing policies may no longer make sense. Yet the drug remains illegal at the federal level, and safety-critical work positions require workers who are clear-headed and not under the influence.

Is it time to reexamine corporate drug policies? Can you balance all of these conflicting factors in the modern workplace? Let’s take a look.

Overall Policies

Overall, many employers are doing away with pre-employment and random drug testing. Amazon, for instance, has eliminated marijuana drug-testing for its drivers and encourages its partners do do so as well. Tests for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, are notoriously unreliable. Depending on the testing method you choose, THC can be detected for weeks or even months after the last use. If you’re in a state where marijuana is legal, does it really matter if your new employee smoked a joint two months ago?

Instead, consider, as you develop your hiring plans, moving to a policy that prohibits the use or possession of marijuana, or being under the influence, while at work. This is similar to the alcohol policies that most companies have had for years and is consistent with Amazon’s marijuana drug testing policy except for DOT requirements.

In this case, you might require testing if there is reasonable suspicion of impairment.

This means that the worker is actively showing such signs as problems with speech, motor skills, or other basic functions. Create a written checklist of observable data, and fill it out whenever you send someone for “reasonable suspicion” drug testing.

Depending on your state, you may also be allowed to conduct post-incident drug testing, and your workers’ compensation insurance company might require it. Check with both your state and your insurer when creating a post-incident policy. Be very careful not to give the appearance of retaliation for reporting an injury.

Safety-Critical Roles

For workers who are in safety-critical roles, different rules may apply. These are positions in which a single mistake could cause harm to coworkers or the general public. You may want to conduct pre-employment and/or random drug testing on these employees. Be sure to check your state laws surrounding such testing, and always disclose in advance that regular drug testing is a condition of employment.

DOT Positions

If your company employs drivers or others who are governed by the federal Department of Transportation, you are required to follow that agency’s regulations. You must drug test all workers in DOT positions on a regular basis.

With marijuana legalization rapidly expanding across the country, it makes little sense to routinely drug test all employees. But there are certain positions that may require testing. Make sure you are up to date on all regulations surrounding drug testing in your state. Then create policies that make the most sense for both your company and your staff.

To summarize a bit, drug testing for marijuana is quickly going away except for instances of random on the job testing and for post accident investigations (sobriety/high/under the influence) – very similar to alcohol testing.

Some positions in logistics, warehouse or manufacturing where using heavy or potentially dangerous machinery may have more stringent requirements. Temp agency locations that drug test are more often only testing for specific clients.

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