The Future of Employee Drug Testing – Is It Going to Change?

There’s a lot of things your employer can’t fire you for. For example, an employer can’t fire you for filing a workers comp claim. Similarly, this goes for reporting dangerous work conditions, or filing a whistleblower complaint, Employers, however, can fire you for what shows up on a drug test. Additionally, drug tests can also prevent you from getting hired. Many workplaces, especially ones that include manual labor or risky jobs, require a drug test as part of the job application. The types of drugs that the test covers will depend on what your potential or current employer asks for. The basic test usually covers alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine, and THC. But with the legalization of cannabis in many states, how is that going to affect future employee drug testing? 

Why Do Companies Want Drug Tests?

The biggest reason for drug testing is protecting the company. When employees are under the influence of drugs, they may hurt themselves, others, or damage company property. If they are at work, their employer may be liable, which companies want to avoid at all costs.  You can be denied workers comp if high or intoxicated on the job when hurt so employers will do all they can, at least in the US, to figure out if that’s the case. Part of the reasoning for drug tests comes from what the job duties are. For anyone who works for an industry such as transportation, transit, defense, aviation, or other industry that is responsible for other people’s safety wants to make sure that their employees aren’t going to cause a major problem or accident because they were on drugs while working. Most government employees are also required to submit to testing.  

Legalization and Medicinal Use of Cannabis

Over the last few years, 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana. While some states differ in their laws, with some legalizing it only for medicinal use and other for medicinal and recreational use, the fact remains that these laws can come in direct conflict with employee drug testing policies, especially if it is being used medicinally. While these states still recognize the need for drug testing for illegal hard drugs, basing employment decisions on positive marijuana drug tests has become a point of legal contention in several states.

Is it Time to Update Drug Testing Policies?

With some states, like Maine, outright banning basing employment on marijuana use, it may be time to update drug testing policies, especially as marijuana becomes more mainstream, especially as a medication. The benefits of medical marijuana actually allow some people to work that would not be able to otherwise, making it contradictory to then refuse them employment. And, as Where’s Weed points out, many companies are dropping marijuana from their tests for exactly that reason.

While there is not likely to be any change in government, construction, or industrial jobs, the trend of drug testing potential or current employees is definitely moving away from including marijuana. While this is great news for those who use marijuana, don’t make the mistake of thinking this will remove all tests and give you a free pass on harder drugs. This isn’t a free pass to circumvent the law.

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