Why fewer US companies are testing workers for marijuana

The percentage of American workers who test positive for drugs hit a two-decade high thanks to a rise in recreational marijuana use, but a shortage of employees has forced companies to scale back the number of tests they do, according to a report.

Quest Diagnostics, a drug testing lab, found that nearly 4% of the more than 6 million American employees tested for controlled substances in 2021 tested positive. according to the Wall Street Journal.

That’s comparable to 2020, when just 2.7% of drug tests conducted on behalf of employers came back positive for marijuana.

Last year’s number also represents a 50% increase from 2017 — when recreational marijuana use was legal in just eight states plus the District of Columbia.

Since then, 18 states have legalized the use of marijuana without a prescription.

While the percentage of positive tests increased, the number of tests companies conducted declined over the past year as employers scrambled to keep as many of their workers as possible due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The drop in testing has also been attributed to changing cultural attitudes toward marijuana. Some states even prohibit companies from using positive marijuana test results as a factor in hiring decisions.

Last year in upstate New York new guidance released prohibiting employers from testing employees for cannabis unless the worker appears to be visibly stoned at work.

According to one report, many companies in states where recreational marijuana use is legal don't even bother to test their employees for THC.
According to one report, many companies in states where recreational marijuana use is legal don’t bother testing their employees for THC.
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Companies suffering labor shortages and headquartered in states that allow recreational marijuana use haven’t bothered to do as much testing over the past year as they did in 2020, according to Quest Diagnostics.

Last year, compared to 2020, 6.7% fewer urine samples were tested for THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana and responsible for giving users the “high.”

In states where recreational marijuana use is legal, that number rose to over 10%, according to the Journal.

“We certainly heard from some of our employer clients that they were struggling to find qualified labor to pass the drug test,” said Dr. Barry Sample, Senior Science Consultant at Quest.

Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. New Mexico on Friday will become the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana. Why fewer US companies are testing workers for marijuana


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