Should Marijuana Be Removed from Pre-Employment Drug Screens?

Since the recent change in state laws regarding recreational marijuana use, the topic of pre-employment drug screening has been brought to the front of many employers minds.

With 28 states now legalizing medical marijuana and 8 of those legalizing recreational marijuana, the pressure towards employers is growing to make a decision on whether or not they should still be screening for marijuana before hiring new employees.

Legalized states

For and Against Marijuana Screening

Screening prior to employment is becoming a more prevalent conversation as many states across the country begin to change their laws on the drug. The main argument for testing is it can be a safety concern in the workplace. For any positions that involve driving, the use of heavy machinery, or anything that could potentially put the public in danger, it makes sense that job candidates are required to pass a drug screening including marijuana before being hired. With legalization, many people are arguing that it should be handled like alcohol, which employers don’t often test for pre-employment, but you still cannot show up to work while impaired. Companies are having a hard time deciding how they can test for impairment at work rather than screening for it pre-employment.

Hiring managers are worried that the sober candidate pool is shrinking and is already very small in states where recreational marijuana is legalized. Thinking back to the employment gap we recognize that there are many jobs being left open today that hiring managers just cannot find candidates to fill. With these openings, there’s an argument to be made that employers should relax their drug screenings to take off marijuana from the knock-outs for candidates. Not only is it hard for some companies to find sober candidates, they could also be missing out on great candidates who won’t even apply because they know they cannot pass a drug test due to legal marijuana use. BBSI, A staffing firm in Washington state has seen a large increase in positive tests since the legalization of recreational marijuana. Steve Bevins, a Director at BBSI says they are now seeing approximately 30% of candidates fail drug screenings, with about 95% of those being for marijuana. Bevins also claims that no shows for scheduled interviews increase significantly after candidates find out there is a mandatory drug test that includes marijuana.

Whether you’re an employer looking to fill your positions or you’re a possible candidate looking to get hired; drug screening for marijuana is at the top of mind in over half of the states in America.

Positions that have safety concerns of employees or the public, drug screening will always be in place. However, for positions that are low on the risk/danger scale, employers are beginning to rethink their testing policy in order to simply get employees through the door.

The Test Itself

A large issue regarding marijuana screening is the accuracy of the test itself. Tests today pick up on marijuana in a person’s body over approximately a 3 month period, giving no answers to current impairment level. Many employers say they don’t necessarily take issue with marijuana use on the weekends or after work, however, they are very worried about employees coming to work while impaired. The search is still on for a reliable test that that can measure real time impairment level, telling them whether an employee is impaired at work or marijuana is still in their system from weeks prior and they are not currently impaired.

From an employers perspective, it is better to be safe than sorry and eliminate the possibility altogether by testing before hiring. Until an alternative test comes to market that allows for employers to know how long ago marijuana was used and an accurate level of impairment, expect this to be an ongoing issue.

The push for laws surrounding this issue will continue to come forward in the next few years and it will be an interesting topic to be on the watch for. We think this is a topic with strong arguments on both sides and is definitely something to keep a close eye on from a recruiting perspective. Look for more to come in the near future, stay tuned!