Do’s and don’ts of workplace marijuana testing

Do’s and don’ts of workplace marijuana testing

As of January 2020, recreational marijuana was legalized in 11 states for adults over the age of 21, and marijuana for medical use was legal in 33 states. This uptick in legalized marijuana has created new challenges and risks for employers. Many employers are in uncharted territory, wondering whether they should still test for the drug in pre-employment screenings and post-employment tests.

But just because marijuana is legal in some states doesn’t mean that employers need to allow it in the workplace. Companies still have the right and responsibility to protect employees and customers from the negative effects of workplace drug use. 

No matter what your state laws allow, these do’s and don’ts will guide you in navigating a new world of marijuana testing so you can ensure a safe and drug-free workplace.

DON’T stop testing for marijuana.

Even if marijuana is legal in the state(s) where you operate, your company should continue testing for the drug.

Marijuana affects the entire body, contributing to irrational behavior, distorted perception and impaired judgment long after the drug has been consumed. For example, one study showed that marijuana-impaired airline pilots’ flight performance on a simulator for up to 24 hours after a moderate social use of marijuana. What’s more, the study indicated that the user might be completely unaware of the lingering psychoactive and cognitive effects on their work performance.

It’s to your benefit to know if your potential employees might be under the influence while they’re on the job.

DO create a clear drug and alcohol use policy for your business.

Companies can promote a healthy and safe workplace by establishing a clear policy outlining specific drug use and screening activities. In some states, a written policy is the first step to lawfully requesting employees to undergo drug screens.

A comprehensive policy on marijuana in the workplace should include:

  • Clear standards for what kind of drug use is prohibited in the workplace
  • Guidelines specifying when drug tests will be conducted
  • A description of any accommodations made for medical marijuana users under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Consequences if employees test positive for marijuana

This policy should be clearly communicated to all employees as early as possible in the hiring process, ideally as part of your employee onboarding process. Every applicant or employee must be issued a copy of the policy to read, date and sign. By signing that policy, the applicant and employee empower you to legally request mandatory drug testing, to be conducted by a state-approved laboratory.

DON’T ignore positive tests.

According to Quest Diagnostics, the rate of workforce drug positivity hit a 14-year high in 2018. If your business is regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT), a positive test could be grounds for dismissal. Even if your business isn’t under the jurisdiction of the DOT, positive tests should be handled according to your company’s stated policy and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines to ensure a safe workplace.

Under OSHA, employers must furnish “employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

Employer tolerance of an employee known to use a federally illegal drug, even for medical purposes, might create an impermissibly harmful environment under current federal law.

“A lot of employers don’t realize that there’s still an OSHA regulation that requires people to not show up to work intoxicated. They also don’t realize that they have an obligation to provide a safe and drug- and alcohol-free work environment for their employees,” says Tyler Weston, President and Chief Operating Officer of Noble Diagnostics.

DO understand how suspending testing could affect your bottom line.

After a business stops testing for marijuana, there’s often a snowball effect of unintended consequences, Weston warns. Your business insurance premiums could increase. Worker’s compensation rates often skyrocket. If there is an on-the-job accident, fines could run into tens of thousands of dollars.

Then there’s the potential cost of attendance and productivity issues. According to the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace, employee marijuana use can result in lower productivity, increased workplace accidents and injuries, increased absenteeism, and lower morale.

A study of postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55% more industrial accidents, 85% more injuries, and 75% greater absenteeism compared with those who tested negative for marijuana use.

DON’T do it alone: How Noble Diagnostics can help.

Partnering with a drug screening expert like Noble Diagnostics will help you stay current with ever-evolving legislation, regulations and workplace best practices.

At Noble, we can help you:

  • Develop a clear drug and alcohol testing policy
  • Design a comprehensive testing program that is both legally compliant and effective
  • Regularly revise drug screening policies based on ever-changing state laws
  • Conduct reasonable Suspicion “signs and symptoms training”, via e-learning or in-person
  • Conduct Designated Employee Representative (DER) compliance training
  • Understand the ins and outs of marijuana legislation and how they affect your workplace with our full compliance team

Contact Noble Diagnostics to discuss your needs today.


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