Medical cannabis use is now legal in 29 states, and recreational use is legal in 8 states and Washington DC. Despite this, little has been done to address the practice of pre-employment cannabis testing and how it impacts people’s right to cannabis. As a result, millions of responsible and law-abiding adults remain at risk of being excluded from the workforce due to a positive drug test.
Pre-employment Cannabis Testing Dwindles in 3 States
Now, three states that have legalized cannabis are favoring the exclusion of the substance from pre-employment drug testing.
Colorado is the first state that legalized the recreational use of cannabis, back in 2012. It is also the first state where employers are noticeably ditching pre-employment cannabis testing.
A study conducted by the Mountain State Employer Council interviewed 609 companies to understand the trends in drug testing policies. It revealed that the number of companies doing pre-employment drug testing decreased by 15 percent since 2014. Out of the companies still administering drug test screens, 5 percent have omitted cannabis from all tests.
It appears, though, that legalization is not the main reason for this trend. The Council stated that Colorado’s low unemployment is the primary contributor to the decrease in pre-employment cannabis testing. The group expects that more companies start testing again when there’s a larger pool of potential job candidates.
The use of medical cannabis became legal in California over 20 years ago, and in 2016 the state legalized cannabis for recreational purposes. Now, a growing number of businesses are excluding cannabis in the drug test screen.
Previously, California tried to prevent employers from disciplining and firing employees who use cannabis. In 2010, the state put the issue out to voters with Proposition 19. Unfortunately, 53.5 percent of voters rejected Prop 19. The new laws regarding recreational cannabis do not yet protect employees, even ones with medical marijuana cards.
Regardless, it appears that only a small share of employers in California require pre-employment cannabis testing. A job placement agency in Santa Barbara, Select Staffing, declared that only 20 percent of its clients require a cannabis drug screen. The agency places this low percentage on its clients’ concerns about missing out on capable employees. Nancy Lavender, a director at Select Staffing, noted:
“They can need it [marijuana] for medical purposes and still be a great employee,” said Lavender. “But they just might be in a position where they have to take it.”
Oregon is the third state that may see dwindling pre-employment cannabis testing. The state legalized recreational cannabis use in 2014.
In early 2017, a bipartisan committee, called the Joint Interim Marijuana Legalization Committee, introduced Bill 301 to the state Senate. If passed, the bill would prohibit any business from firing an employee on the basis of cannabis usage. In addition, the law would disallow employers from basing new employment decisions on cannabis test results.
Currently, employers in Oregon can still fire an employee who uses cannabis.
NORML, a consumer advocate group, has created a coalition that will lobby for the necessary legislative and workplace reforms to protect responsible cannabis users in all the states where cannabis use is currently legal.