On February 19, California State Assemblymember Bill Quirk introduced a bill that could put a halt to cannabis drug testing. In an era where weed is more popular than ever, employers need to evolve with the times and put an end to this outdated policy.
Public perception of marijuana has moved far past the days of Reefer Madness and Just Say No. Gallup estimated that in 2016, 33 million Americans were using marijuana regularly, and half had tried it at least once. Since Washington voted to legalize cannabis recreationally in 2012, thirteen other states have followed suit. Not only has public policy adapted, but so has the cannabis industry. Thousands of companies have sprung up, creating an abundance of products ranging from edibles to lotions, valuing the industry at 13.6 billion.
This raises an important question: Is it still necessary to test for a drug that is not only legal in some states but also accepted by many? The answer is a resounding no. The more marijuana becomes accepted in society, the less realistic it will be for employers to hire a completely drug-free workforce. Some companies in California have even decided to stop testing for cannabis since the state voted in favor of legalization.
Clearly, drug testing for weed is unnecessary, but that only paints part of the picture. One of the biggest problems with drug testing for weed is that it does not always indicate impairment. Drug tests only show if an employee has used marijuana in the past. In fact, the drug can remain in one’s urine for up to 90 days depending on how often one consumes it. Then there is the issue of tests coming up with false positives, which can happen 10 to 30 percent of the time.
“Urine tests are like going through employees’ trash every week and looking around for empty beer cans or liquor bottles. And if you find some, the person must’ve been drunk on the job,” said Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML.
Gieringer, who also cosponsored the bill, believes that drug testing for cannabis is unfair, and that it should be treated like other legal activities
This is a clear example of employees having their privacy invaded. Why are we punishing workers for decisions being made off the job? Why is having a beer after work considered fine by employers but smoking a joint is not? Policies like these are crossing a boundary between work and personal life.
Employees should not be showing up to work high or drunk, that should be a given. The only cases where a drug test can be justified is through reasonable suspicion. But the practice of requiring pre-employment, or “suspicionless” drug testing is another case of laws not catching up to the times. If we are to properly progress forward, we cannot keep latching onto outdated ways of thinking.