Living in a pro-pot state has its obvious benefits. Working in a pro-pot state, on the other hand, is fraught with complications. Companies large and small still use employee drug testing as a measure of suitability for hiring and ongoing employment. But as legalisation and social acceptance gain a stronger foothold, testing for pot is coming under fire.
An unfair standard
While employees may even have a beer or two at lunch, let alone the copious amounts imbibed off hours, and go to work hung over, they can still test clear for enough alcohol to be considered legal impairment. Testing methods for actual THC impairment are anything but accurate, as they only detect the presence of degraded metabolites in the system.
Since cannabis stays in the system far longer than any other substance, legal or otherwise, one can be fired for testing positive weeks, or even months after use. Medical use makes the issue even stickier, as more than one card carrying patient has learned the hard way.
The practice of demanding the body fluids of employees is an invasive procedure, with very little actual benefit for its high price tag, as noted by the ACLU and other civil liberty groups.
While positions involving the safe operation of vehicles and equipment are under the jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and obviously necessitate a sober mind, it is the many other positions where personal off-hours consumption should have nothing to do with suitability for employment.
Post looking at policy change
The Washington Post appears to be preparing to change policy on cannabis use, as Mike Madden, an editor for the publication reported on Twitter.
News from Washington Post all-staff townhall: The Post is re-examining its policy on drug testing for marijuana.
He added that the issue arose from a staff member’s question. The company has at this time not released a formal memo on the subject of cannabis use, but as the paper resides in a state that has passed not only medical but recreational use and recently published an article arguing for an end to the practice of screening for cannabis, it can only make sense that they take their own advice.
Jennifer Lee, communications manager at the post wrote to Fortune on the subject, stating:
The Post does pre-employment drug screening for all employees, and we are currently reviewing that policy.
Why the fight against common sense?
In the light of a change in law, a corresponding change to applicable policy only makes sense, but there is a strong push against progress in the issue. Large companies subject to federal operations guidelines fear potential workplace safety violations, as well as perceived damage to their credibility with the public for allowing the use of the substance. Both owners and other employees that are prejudiced against and ignorant on the truth about cannabis can shape policy that only affects a few employees.
The biggest push to continue the practice, however, boils down to money. Drug testing laboratories and services are a huge industry, and they actively lobby against drug policy reform, as it directly threatens their profits. If companies stop spending thousands of dollars a year on random and pre-employment testing, it would cripple the industry.
Soon it may not be a matter of options
As legalisation efforts reach critical mass, with a majority of the United States having some form of accepted cannabis use on the law books and the DEA expected to reach a decision on rescheduling marijuana this summer, the practice of termination for use may no longer be in the hands of employers.
According to NORML, the rate of testing for marijuana use among US employers has held steady at 48% for a number of years. Disproportionately, it is often the lowest positions that are held to the standard. Owners, CEOs, and most high paying or upper positions are often exempt from the practice.
Just as companies cannot fire someone for alcohol, tobacco, or prescription medication, they may soon have to modify policy as the federal law they cling to evaporates. Until that happens, it is only through the continued social acceptance and demystifying efforts of activists and scientists that policy in the workplace will change.
But like a snowball rolling downhill, the more companies change their ways, the more that others will have to consider it.
Does your company need a cannabis policy change? If your entire company was tested today, what percentage of employees would be left? Tell us what you think on social media or in the comments below.