How Will Changing Laws Affect Marijuana Drug Testing in the Workplace?

November 1, 2018

Drug Testing Articles


As more states accept or consider drug legalization, particularly for marijuana, how do these changing laws this affect testing in the workplace?

Changing laws governing marijuana might have you wondering if you should still test for drugs in the workplace. Wondering what those changes to drug laws mean for you? We’re here to help.

Performing drug tests at work has been an important part of maintaining workplace safety for a long time. In many industries, from healthcare to construction, it’s critical that workers stay sober to keep themselves and the people around them safe.

The legalization of marijuana in many states doesn’t mean there’s no place for drug tests at work. In this guide, we’ll clear up the myths and give you the facts about how these laws might affect your testing protocols. Keep reading to learn what you need to know!

Why Drug Tests Still Matter

With marijuana becoming legal in multiple states, are drug tests still valuable? The answer is yes – there are many reasons why you should continue to drug test your employees. Here are some of the top reasons to keep drug testing among your company policies.

1. To Avoid Legal Trouble

One of the top reasons to make sure your workers are sober is to avoid the legal repercussions you could face if they aren’t.

If someone gets harmed by one of your employees because they were high, your business could be seriously damaged. In addition to facing the consequences for your reputation, you might also be legally responsible for the injuries caused.

Depending on where your business is located, having intoxicated workers might also be a violation of OSHA or state safety laws.

2. To Get Insurance Discounts

Some states allow employers to pay less for workers compensation when safety precautions are taken. Drug testing sometimes counts as one of those precautions. This can save your company a lot of money over time.

3. To Keep Workers Productive

Even if your job doesn’t involve possible safety issues, sober workers tend to be more productive workers. Testing for marijuana can be part of your efforts to make sure your employees come to work prepared to do the best possible job every day. You stand to lose a lot of money due to the lost productivity from intoxicated workers.

How to Handle the Changing Laws of Marijuana

It’s easy to see why drug testing is still a valuable workplace practice. But how can you be prepared in the face of changing drug laws? Here’s our guide to keeping up with the times while still keeping your employees from using drugs before work.

1. Communicate Well With Employees

If you don’t clearly outline your marijuana rules for your employees, they might make incorrect assumptions. Especially if you’re located in a state where marijuana is legal, it’s important to clearly let your employees know that it won’t be tolerated on the job.

Inform your HR department how to work through situations involving employee marijuana use, too.

2. Understand Reasonable Accommodations

Most state laws, as well as certain federal laws, require that employers give reasonable accommodations so employees with disabilities can still work. However, the way these laws work with medical marijuana laws still hasn’t been fully decided. A number of recent court cases show where the confusion lies.

Should patients with medical marijuana prescriptions be kept on the job? Is firing them for using medical marijuana a violation of these laws? It’s a good idea to check what any relevant court cases in your state have decided. These cases are likely to become more and more common, and you’ll need to decide how best to avoid becoming involved in one.

3. Know the Laws Relevant to Your Industry

The state and federal laws regarding marijuana use can work differently for different industries. For example, if your business gets money from the federal government, you can’t allow your employees to use marijuana (since it’s still federally illegal).

Even if marijuana is legal in your state and your company has no connection to the federal government, the state law probably still doesn’t allow employees to use marijuana if it creates unsafe situations. You already know that you don’t want your employees intoxicated at work. Still, it’s good to know how state or federal laws align with your goals, or how they might be different.

4. Understand How Marijuana Tests Work

A positive marijuana test may not mean the individual has used marijuana that day, or even that week. It’s important to know how marijuana stays in the system and appears on drug tests, so you won’t accidentally punish employees who have done nothing wrong.

Some states are setting minimum thresholds, and if people test above that amount of marijuana, they’re considered in violation of the law. However, the presence of small amounts of marijuana in the system might be permitted, because it’s showing use from several weeks ago.

It’s also valuable to know that most marijuana tests show THC, the psychoactive part of the drug. However, many people using marijuana products for medical reasons use CBD, which doesn’t get you high, but is still illegal in many states.

5. Update Policies as Needed

Now is a good time to revisit and update your organization’s drug policies to reflect the new state laws. You might make changes, or simply make the wording more clear so there won’t be any confusion at your company. Your policies should be clear and easily understood by employees, while complying with relevant state and federal laws.

Coping With Changing Times

These changing laws and changing attitudes toward marijuana can make things challenging and confusing at work. Knowledge is power, so stay informed and keep abreast of changes as they come.

Make information easily available to your employees, so they understand the state and federal laws that affect them, too. And don’t hesitate to make changes if your current policies aren’t working well.

Looking for more information to help you understand drug testing? Check out our myth-debunking guide here.

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  1. How to determine the Best Drug Testing Kits for Your Organization | The Rapid Detect INC Blog - December 5, 2018

    […] the new laws regarding recreational drugs, and what they mean for you. Check out our blog on the changing laws related to marijuana and see how this affects your company as you progress forward to the […]

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