Clearing the Haze: Exploring the Movement Away from Marijuana Testing

Noel Diem |

Discussions about marijuana testing in the workplace have taken over HR circles. There has been a shift from testing, sparking debate and raising questions. What does the future look like for marijuana testing – and is there a “one size fits all” answer?

If you’re an employer navigating these changes, you’re not alone. It’s a question we see all the time. While the legal and moral implications differ, some truths remain clear.

Exploring the Movement Away from Marijuana Testing

Employers are facing a dilemma when it comes to testing for THC. The number of medical marijuana users is on the rise – and they use marijuana to treat medical conditions. Other states have legalized recreational use. This presents a unique challenge for both employees and employers alike.

Why Are Companies Moving Away From Marijuana Testing?

As marijuana legislation continues to evolve, companies must reevaluate drug testing policies. Employers are recognizing that marijuana use does not equate to impairment. 

Moreover, conducting THC testing can be costly and time-consuming for businesses. They often have greater legal complexities involved in different jurisdictions. 

Some other reasons companies are moving away from marijuana testing include:

  • Focusing on other factors impacting safety and performance.
  • Attracting and retaining quality candidates is challenging in competitive markets.
  • Appealing to a broader talent pool.
  • Aligning with societal changes.
  • Retaining experienced employees.

Some companies have their own reasons to move away from testing – and others will have reasons to keep doing it.

How does federal law impact workplace drug policies?

Federal law plays a crucial role in shaping drug policies. Under federal law, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. Companies under federal jurisdiction must adhere to anti-drug policies following federal regulations. For example, in the Department of Transportation, drug testing for marijuana remains mandatory. These regulations ensure that certain industries maintain drug-free workplaces and uphold safety standards. 

Employers not subject to federal oversight have more flexibility on marijuana use. Yet, they must still consider potential legal implications and employee rights.

Companies No Longer Testing for THC

Forward-thinking companies are focusing on performance-based evaluations instead of drug testing results. Why?

  • THC levels do not indicate current intoxication.
  • Medical marijuana authorizations and legalized recreational use create confusion.
  • Employers can address potential impairment without stigmatizing employees based on off-duty activities.

Some companies that have stopped testing for THC include:

  • Whole Foods
  • Trader Joe’s
  • LA Fitness
  • Target
  • IBM
  • Oracle
  • Amazon

Compliance With Federal, State Law

Employers must navigate a complex web of federal and state laws. This disconnect creates challenges for companies trying to establish drug testing policies. Employers must stay informed about laws governing marijuana use in their state. But what about companies that cross state lines? What about medical marijuana? What about use in cancer treatments? Navigating this legal landscape requires careful consideration and consultation with legal experts.

Can employers drug test for cannabis in legal states?

In legal states, the question of whether employers can still drug test for cannabis use is a complex one. While some state laws protect employees using medical marijuana, there are exceptions. Employers have the right to maintain a safe work environment and ensure productivity. Even so, they must stay updated on evolving state regulations about cannabis use. 

The issue becomes even more nuanced when considering off-duty versus on-the-job marijuana consumption. The legality of testing employees depends on state laws, industry, and company policies.

Medical Marijuana Authorizations: The MRO vs Employer

 It’s crucial to follow industry best practices to address this issue. Employers often engage the services of a federally licensed Medical Review Officer (MRO) to review positive drug test results before reporting them. The MRO conducts confidential interviews to assess evidence explaining the positive result. This ensures fairness and compliance with disability discrimination laws.

Medical marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug under federal law makes it hard. Despite its legality in many states, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. Consequently, MROs are cautious in verifying state-issued medical marijuana authorizations because of this.

Given these complexities, you must clarify your procedures and expectations for drug testing. If our current MRO policy does not address this, you may want to take these steps:

  1. Place the burden of proof on the employee.

  2. Request production of a state-issued medical marijuana card.

  3. Require a copy of the Written Certification from a physician submitted to the state.

  4. Consider contacting the issuing physician to verify the validity and status.

It’s important to note that while some states may maintain medical marijuana registration databases, their use by employers and MROs is often restricted.

How should employers approach cannabis-related impairment in the workplace?

Employers face a complex challenge here, as the issue requires careful consideration. Employers should focus on impairment rather than simply testing for THC levels. Clear policies and procedures addressing impairment (not THC) can create a safer work environment. 

Education is key – ensuring that employees understand the effects of cannabis and how it impacts performance is essential. Providing training on signs of impairment and promoting open communication about substance use is beneficial. This includes what happens if someone is suspected of impairment on the job. This approach saves money and time, focusing only on those employees who may be using it. Blanket testing takes up a lot of time and resources usually needed elsewhere.

Collaborate with legal and HR professionals to develop comprehensive drug-free workplace policies.

Marijuana testing–how good is it?

The effectiveness and reliability of marijuana testing has been a hot topic of debate in recent years. While drug tests can detect the presence of THC in a person’s system, there are limitations, including:

  • Frequency of use
  • Metabolism
  • Body chemistry
  • Time of testing
  • Effectiveness
  • Time-of-testing impairment
  • False positives
  • Inconsistencies

And these are a few of the reasons employers are reevaluating! 

Is Marijuana Testing Going Up In Smoke?

So, is marijuana testing going up in smoke? For some industries and some companies, yes. Even so, safety concerns, legal compliance, and existing policies must be considered. 

What works for your workplace may not work for another. Talking with your legal and HR team is important to decide what works for your business. It may also be worth talking to your employees to see what matters to them and their comfort in the workplace.

Remember that marijuana testing is only a part of screening potential new hires. Many other things can pose a risk to your workplace. Criminal background checks, driving records, and referrals are as important.

Need help getting your background screening process and policies in the right place? Request a demo of Mitratech’s background screening solution today.

Our focus? On your success.

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