There’s one thing that needs to disappear along with the prohibition of marijuana: employee drug testing. So begins this piece in The Washington Post from freelance reporter Gina Tron, in which she opines that screening for pot was never good policy, and that in fact every employer should stop all of their drug testing practices.
"Privacy arguments aside—should employers really be in the business of demanding body fluids from their workers?—this testing is expensive and does not effectively screen for good employees," writes Tron. "In fact, it probably doesn’t effectively screen for drug users. Yet companies continue to drug test potential employees, even in states where medical marijuana is legal."
Here's Why You Should
She says legal barriers to marijuana use are falling all over the country, and that pot, tried by nearly half of all Americans at some point in their lives, is already legal in some form in 23 states.
Congress recently filed two bills that could end the federal prohibition of marijuana, including one which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act’s schedules and regulate it similarly to alcohol.
According to a Staffing Talk survey, most staffing companies (45%) say they drug test across the board or drug test the majority of their candidates (28%).
What’s interesting, however, is that a combined 26% of respondents do it only some of the time, rarely, or not at all. That’s a measurable portion of the industry specifically swinging the opposite way of the majority.
The Post author cites an old ACLU study that concluded drug tests were overly expensive and a poor indicator of workplace performance because they don’t test for impairments.
And that tests are arguably more likely to catch occasional users than drug abusers.
The ACLU said in summation, “If drug-related impairment on the job is an employer’s primary concern, drug testing is both an over-inclusive and an under-inclusive strategy.”
Staffing Pros Say This Is Why You Shouldn't
But while The Washington Post piece makes the argument that the growing legalization and acceptance of marijuana should be a driver for the abolition of drug testing, some staffing firm respondents to our survey said it's just the opposite.
“With the approval of the medical marijuana card, we have seen an increased trend in clients requesting that drug tests are required as part of the contract for temporary staffing,” one staffing firm owner responded.
“States legalizing marijuana make it even MORE important to drug test," says another staffing pro. "The 'med marijuana' people seem to be under the impression that employers are obligated to hire them. This of course is not true. Pot heads – card carrying or not – continue to present a safety risk in the workplace and (as of right now anyway) federal law does not recognize state med marijuana laws. It's embarrassing when a candidate shows up on interview and tells employer 'No, I won't pass drug screen. I have med marijuana card.'”
It's interesting to take note that not a single one of the Staffing Talk drug testing survey respondents said their lack of testing was because “laws are more lenient."
As for substances other than marijuana, the Post piece stated that "even if an employer wanted to keep drug testing employees for substances other than marijuana, they are unlikely to catch them."
Cocaine can pass through the system in as little as one to three days, Tron says, and meth can leave the body in one to five days.
Tron also wrote that the use of certain drugs may not even have a correlation with poor work performance at all.
"Companies with drug testing actually have lower productivity over ones that don’t, according to one study," she writes.
Tron concludes her Washington Post piece saying screening for pot was never good policy for employers.
"Continuing to do so as medical marijuana became legal made even less sense. Now that recreational use becomes more acceptable under the law, it’s downright illogical."