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March 1, 2022

Today's Marijuana Laws and Their Effect on Your Workplace

marijuana laws mapHuman Resource professionals know they must roll with changes of some sort every year. Responding to new laws and regulations takes adaptability and flexibility, but it’s necessary to maintain a compliant workplace.

Recently, the landscape regarding marijuana use has been a big driver of change.

By the end of 2021, 36 states had legalized medical marijuana and 18 states had legalized marijuana for recreational use.

No matter where you personally fall on the subject, the growing trend is that marijuana use is acceptable in more states than it’s not. This poses a problem that your drug screening process must address. Questions like “Should I still be screening job applicants for marijuana” “Is it legal for me to consider marijuana use in my hiring decision?” “Is there a better way to screen for drugs than we are using now?” need to be thoughtfully considered and answered.

In a 2021 industry survey, 79% of drug screening providers said their clients were concerned about their ability to test for THC, and 71% said they were concerned with the legal risks of testing for marijuana. HR professionals need to consult with their Drug Testing partner and legal counsel to ensure compliance with the changing laws.

Legalizing marijuana doesn’t make the drug less of a threat to your workplace. Drug abuse causes accidents, decreases productivity, and increases turnover in the workplace. These are the reasons companies conduct drug screening in the first place!

How, then, can companies still screen for drug use and comply with their state and/or local laws at the same time? There are several ways HR can adjust their policies, so they still mitigate risk.

Remove Marijuana Screening from Your Drug Testing

An option some employers are taking to address marijuana legalization is to ask your screening provider to remove marijuana from the drug testing panel. That way you can still test for other illicit drugs without making hiring decisions based on an applicant’s marijuana usage.

Change When You Screen

Even if you decide to remove marijuana screening from your pre-employment drug testing process, you still need to consider screening in certain situations, just like you do with alcohol. Screening upon reasonable suspicion, post-accident, for safety-sensitive or regulated roles (i.e., DOT regulated or running heavy equipment) or pre-access are all acceptable times that are within your company’s rights.

Use New Methods of Drug Screening

Urine testing remains the most popular form of drug screening by far. However, it may not be the best option if you’re testing for recent use. For example, if your employee uses marijuana during lunch, then causes an accident an hour after they get back, urine testing may not have time to register this usage. According to a recent study, the window of impairment for marijuana use is 3-10 hours.

If you’re changing your drug screening policy to accommodate the new marijuana laws, implementing oral testing is a smart move. Oral tests return results within a few minutes, and they detect recent use within that 3–10-hour window. These results are strong evidence that backs up adverse actions taken because of on-the-job impairment. Oral tests are great options for addressing post-accident or reasonable suspicion circumstances.

Don’t be tempted to discontinue drug screening altogether because you’re unsure of how to proceed with new marijuana laws. The stakes are too high, and the costs are too great to ditch your attempts at achieving a drug-free workplace. Let’s look at the return on investment of screening for drug use in the workplace.

The average annual cost of a substance abuser to a company is $8,187. According to the National Safety Council, marijuana-using employees are 3.6 times more likely to cause a workplace accident, and the average medically consulted injury costs $39,000.

Bottom line: Don’t open your company up to costly risk by eliminating your drug screening policy. Take the time to review and edit it so it works for today’s laws.

Lean on your drug screening partner to reach a workable solution.

Never has a reputable, experienced drug screening vendor been more important to your company than it is this year. Use their expertise in re-crafting your policy to address the marijuana laws in your state (or states) of business. Your vendor partner should be able to assist you in adapting your current policy so it’s legal and recommending new drug screening options as needed.

The overwhelming trend is to legalize marijuana use in the United States. With these changes come uncertainty in how to proceed with a drug screening policy that both protects your workplace and follows the law. Give your current policy a hard look and make changes where you need to, without throwing it out altogether. The time it takes to re-work your policy will be returned in maintaining better hires, lower turnover, and higher productivity.

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