Employers are questioning their stance on drug testing and what a drug-free workplace looks like as marijuana and other recreational drugs become legal and less stigmatized.
As the U.S. job market faces an unprecedented labor shortage, increasing marijuana legalization and scrutiny pointed toward workplace culture are causing some employers to make changes to their policies. Just 1.47% of job postings in the U.S. say they require pre-employment drug testing, while only 0.66% stipulate regular drug testing once hired, according to clinical laboratory Quest Diagnostics.
“Everything is rapidly changing across the country,” says Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics. “But there are both safety as well as productivity considerations always present.”
With marijuana legal in 19 states, whether on a medicinal or recreational level, employers are seeing a rise in drug positivity rates. In 2020, Quest Diagnostics reported that overall positivity for drugs has climbed 12.2% since 2016. Between 2012 and 2020, pre-employment testing positivity for marijuana climbed from 1.9% to 3.7%, while testing positive for marijuana after an on-site accident rose from 2.4% to 6.4%.
This is a potential cause for concern, as the data includes not only the general U.S workforce but the federally mandated safety-sensitive workforce of workers like bus drivers, pilots and train operators. These industries may have little choice in whether to loosen their stance on drug testing, even as these practices become less prevalent in the private sector and state laws and perceptions change, Sample explains.
“I advise employers to consult an attorney who’s knowledgeable on the issues in their state as they’re trying to craft any drug-testing program,” says Sample. “Employer drug testing programs should then be clearly outlined,