Cannabis is legal now, in more and more places. Weed is becoming a part of accepted, respectable society, in almost every way. Notice I said almost, because there are some important exceptions… including the workplace.

Pass the test

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To even get a job at many companies, you must pass a pre-employment drug screen. And at almost all of those companies – even in states where cannabis is legal! – those screens (usually urinalysis) test for marijuana, along with harder drugs.

With 29 states having legalized medical marijuana, and eight states, along with D.C., having legalized recreational cannabis, the question is why?

Why should we excluded qualified people from positions at which they might excel, just because they smoke pot?

While blood-alcohol tests indicate actual impairment, cannabis tests do not, according to experts. The marijuana metabolites detectable in urine samples are evidence of past use, not actual impairment, according to Dr. Alan Shackelford, a Harvard Medical School-trained physician who founded medical marijuana clinic Amarimed in Denver.

Since cannabinoids occur naturally in the human body, THC and other marijuana-related chemicals are metabolized differently than most substances.

The body actually holds onto the THC as long as it can, as contrasted with alcohol or hard drugs, which it gets rid of as quickly as possible because of their toxicity.

“We’ve always done it that way”

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If the best reason corporate America can give us is “because we’ve always done it that way,” that’s just not working for us anymore. Many of the best, brightest, and most motivated members of the modern workforce happen to enjoy cannabis in their off-time… and there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

But since weed remains illegal under federal law, employers have the right to test for it, even in states where it’s legal.

Companies, however, can make the decision to take cannabis off their pre-employment drug screens. Josephine Kenney, senior vice president of compliance for First Advantage, a global background screening firm based in Atlanta says,

[according to the Society for Human Resource Management] employers will have to decide if they will take marijuana off their testing panel.

Things are changing

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The good news is, surveys show that companies in states which have legalized recreational weed are gradually deciding to remove cannabis from pre-employment drug screening panels.

Pot testing by Colorado companies has slowly declined over the past two years. According to a survey performed by the Mountain States Employers Council last December, 7 percent of the state’s employers dropped pot from pre-employment tests.

About 10 percent of Denver and Boulder employers took weed off their tests, and 9 percent of companies in Pueblo did the same.

But we still have a long way to go. Only 5 percent of employers say they accommodate cannabis use, according to drug-testers HireRight. Thirty-nine percent do not accommodate weed use, and 52 percent say they don’t have a policy either way.

At least 10 medical marijuana states require employers to accommodate cannabis patients, according to Dr. Todd Simo, chief medical officer at HireRight. In those states, it is unlawful to disqualify an authorized medical marijuana patient from a position just because that person tested positive for cannabis.

The industries with the highest percentage of businesses testing employees for marijuana are mining, utilities, transportation, communication, and construction, reports The Denver Post. 

The industries doing the least testing for pot are insurance, financial, real estate, and software/hardware. A majority of employers that drug test, post-hiring, do so after a workplace accident.