Revised Drug Testing Policy at Companies post Marijuana Legalization?

Revised Drug Testing Policy at Companies post Marijuana Legalization?

Drug Testing Policy at Companies

In 2014, speculations surfaced around the Federal Bureau of Investigation considering loosening of its no-tolerance policy for hiring those who like to smoke marijuana, as per an article in The Wall Street Journal. It should be noted that while the whole thing came out as humor on the part of FBI director James Comey, the agency certainly did acknowledge that no-tolerance marijuana policy has raised challenges during its recruitment drives – particularly in hiring top computer programmers and hackers for its cyber security efforts. Currently, the marijuana hiring restriction isn’t just affecting every three-letter agency in the U.S but many others businesses as well.

Drug Testing Policy at Companies

While marijuana is cited illegal under the federal law, 21 states have legalized medicinal marijuana, including four – Alaska, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon which have moreover legalized recreational marijuana. Pre-employment drug testing is most often standard at organizations for a lot of positions. With the revision of state laws on drug usage, should your organization drop that little drug usage checkbox off the pre-employment form? Should your organization drop medication testing? Or, entirely exclude marijuana from reports? Here are a three basic points to keep in mind before you reconsider your organization’s drug-testing regulations:

  1. Are you obliged to test by law? For example, regardless of the fact that your organization, which is involved in transportation, is based in a state where marijuana legalization is approved, you have to maintain testing for drugs. What if it hits you square in the wallet, should one of your employees crash their truck and test positive for drugs?

The same goes for businesses involved in heavy machinery, access to narcotics, medical care, or anything that involves safety, then it is essential for your organization to conduct mandatory drug tests.

  1. What about recreational marijuana? Recreational marijuana certainly didn’t seem like a biggie to voters in Alaska and Oregon. On the other hand, the Federal Law classifies marijuana, heroin, LSD, ecstasy and magic mushrooms under the Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The whole State Law vs. Federal Law ordeal has certainly put several Human Resource professionals under a huge dilemma.

The good news is, the Federal Law and State laws have made it clear that organizations are free to set their own drug use policies. The new law certainly does not affect the rights of an employer to condone illegal use of drugs, possession or influence at their workplace. A few states legalize medicinal marijuana and explicitly offer employment protection to such users. Similarly, when an employee tests positive for THC, you need to find out if it’s for medicinal use, and if that is the case then you must get familiar with State Laws.

  1. Losing candidates to rivals as a result of it? The FBI is missing out on incredible talent pool on account of its long look-back period among drug usage and a few other things. If your competitors aren’t incorporating drug tests as a part of its recruitment program and you’re losing good candidates as a result of it, you may need to re-evaluate your policy. You can obviously continue testing for different substances and give Mary Jane a pass. Remember, alcohol can be a more serious issue and is absolutely legal with hundreds of hardcore junkies and drunks getting a free pass on recruitment programs because of it.

It is perfectly logical that an organization would want to incorporate a drug-free workforce. Regardless, you may still want to revise your drug testing policy if you’re in one of the 18 states where marijuana usage has been legalized. 

Priyansha Mistry
Currently editor at The HR Digest Magazine. She helps HR professionals identify issues with their talent management and employment law. | Priyansha tweets at @PriyanshaMistry

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