The changing views on marijuana in the workplace

August 3, 2022

Historically, marijuana is a drug that has been tested for in pre-employment drug screenings as well as drug testing current employees. However, with many states changing the laws about marijuana use, this has become more complicated.

There are 37 states that allow adults to use marijuana either medically or recreationally (or both). However, that doesn't always mean it's approved by the workplace. Some find it discriminatory to refuse employment on the grounds of marijuana use, while others find it dangerous to allow for marijuana use even if it's being used off the clock. There are many employers who want to maintain a drug-free workplace, regardless of the law.

More companies are loosening requirements when it comes to marijuana, however. In fact, Quest Diagnostics shows that the number of urine tests that screen for marijuana decreased 5% from 2015-2020.

The differences from state to state
Because it's not legal federally, the use of marijuana presents a complex issue when it comes to drug testing. Federal jobs can still require drug testing for marijuana, and more specifically, jobs like pilots and bus drivers must test for it. In careers where one's safety could be put at risk, particularly if marijuana is being used on the job, it's generally still tested for.

According to Pew Trusts, there are 14 states where employers cannot legally discriminate against employees because of the medical use of marijuana. Washington, D.C., also bans this. This means the employee must be prescribed marijuana by a licensed doctor.

There are some states, including New Jersey and New York, where employers cannot discriminate against people who use marijuana, whether it's medical or not. This means that those using it recreationally would be included. Similarly, in Nevada employers can't refuse to hire someone because of the failure of a marijuana drug test.

Drug testing expectations
The most common drug test is through a urine sample, but it may also be gathered through hair or saliva samples. Marijuana can be detected through any of these. A hair test can detect the use of marijuana up to 90 days afterward, whereas a saliva test is closer to only 24 hours. Urine tests generally detect use up to a week afterward. These timelines vary depending on the amount and frequency of marijuana use.

Whether the drug test information is used is specific to the state, employer and position. Depending what kind of job you are hiring for, it's a good idea to look into your state's specific and most recent laws, as these are continuously developing in most areas of the country.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether screening for marijuana matters to your company. If marijuana is being used legally, outside of work hours, will it affect the employee? Do they have a prescription? Or are you taking every precaution necessary to avoid drug users of any kind?

These are all questions to ask when assessing whether you should be testing for marijuana in your pre-employment drug screenings.