While illegal drug use remains a problem in America, research increasingly indicates that workplace drug testing might not be the best way to maintain a highly productive and safe workplace environment. Furthermore, some studies go so far as to indicate that in the modern workplace drug testing might actually be doing more harm than good, especially when screening for marijuana, creating unnecessary losses and liability complications.
With legal barriers to marijuana and cannabis use falling all over the United States, and nearly 50 percent of the population having admitted to trying the substance at some point in their lives, testing for marijuana use in the workplace is becoming more than obsolete. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have currently legalized the use of and possession of marijuana in some for or another, and four states have gone so far as to legalize it’s use recreationally. Furthermore, two bills were recently introduced into the House of Representatives were filed that could end the federal prohibition of marijuana completely. One of which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act list and regulate it similarly to alcohol.
In locals where marijuana usage has been sanctioned, especially those that allow cannabis use for medical treatment, legal battles over an employer’s ability to terminate an employee based on the legal use of marijuana have been abundant. While many of these cases have sided in the employer’s favor, the lengthy litigation process and publicity have been costly. However, defense costs against an employment practices liability law suite are not the only costly part of drug testing. Drug testing itself is a costly endeavor, and many studies suggest that employers receive little if any benefit from doing so.
A study released by the American Civil Liberties Union concluded that drug tests were overly expensive and a poor indicator of workplace performance. The study cited that not only are these tests not indicative of an employee’s work performance they could actually be punishing occasional drug users and not identifying regular users of controlled substances. Because these test identify the metabolic presence of illicit substances, employers more often catch a person who used an illicit substance in the recent past but probably not a person who is under the influence habitually or at the time of the test. Furthermore, drug screenings designed to identify substances other than marijuana can be even more expensive and less effective, as more serious illicit substances are often metabolized in less than 5 days, while traces of marijuana can remain for up to a month.
As such, many officials and worker’s right groups are calling for American businesses to reform their own drug screening practices to adapt to changing legislation and social norms.
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