Marijuana testing has been a staple of the hiring process at large companies for more than 30 years. But radical changes to state laws are starting to change that.
Changing State Laws
Currently, thirty-eight states have chosen to legalize either recreational or medical marijuana. And that number is growing. Michigan could become the 10th state to do so in November. And Missouri appears on track to become the 30th state to allow medicinal marijuana.
Businesses that drug test are having to pay close attention in order to not run afoul of changing laws.
In California – where recreational marijuana is legal – business owners can still refuse to hire a worker for a positive marijuana test. However, in Maine the law is much more worker-oriented. In that state, the majority of businesses can’t test job applicants for marijuana use. Nor can they fire an employee for a marijuana-positive drug test, except under certain circumstances.
Marijuana Testing And The Worker Shortage
Rather than trying to rewrite drug-testing policies to both exclude marijuana users and stay on the right side of various state laws, some businesses are choosing to stop testing for the drug altogether.
These loosening drug-testing policies are also coming at a time when many businesses can’t find enough drug-free workers to fill key positions.
“I have heard from lots of clients things like, ‘I can’t staff the third shift and test for marijuana,'” said Michael Clarkson, head of the drug testing practice at law firm Ogletree Deakins.
Most businesses that have dropped marijuana testing continue to screen for cocaine, opiates, heroin and other drugs. But many companies are re-thinking the types of jobs they can hire marijuana users for.
According to New Hampshire employment lawyer James Reidy, “Employers are saying, ‘We have a thin labor pool. So are we going to test and exclude a whole group of people? Or can we assume some risks, as long as they’re not impaired at work?'”
However, while more companies that staff workers such as hoteliers, housekeepers, warehouse workers, and assemblers may be dropping marijuana testing, safety-critical jobs still require workers to be THC-free.
And federal regulations also require the testing of pilots, train operators and other key transportation workers.
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