Job Drug Testing As Marijuana Legalization Expands

Many U.S. states have recently legalized the use of marijuana either for medical or recreational purposes (or both). This has left some employees to wonder whether they’re protected from losing their jobs if they are caught out as marijuana users in their drug tests.

This has also left employers wondering what their rights are to drug test or dismiss for marijuana use. In most states, it’s legal for employers to dismiss employees for using or being under the influence of marijuana at work. When it comes to off-duty use, however, the picture gets a little muddier.

Legal experts on the subject note that it depends on your state’s laws and whether you were using marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

Medical Marijuana

To date, medical marijuana is legal in 33 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. In these states, people with serious health conditions can register for a medical marijuana card with the approval and authorization of a doctor. In many of these states, workers who have been approved to use medical marijuana can’t be prosecuted under state law. It’s important to remember, however, that marijuana is still illegal under federal law, even for legitimate medical purposes.

Recreational Marijuana

The recreational use of cannabis is legal to date in 11 states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington). Most of these states do NOT protect workers from dismissal due to marijuana use as long as the drug test is conducted under legal circumstances.

Legal drug testing can be a bit of a rules minefield. It’s generally safe for employers to drug test applicants after making a conditional offer of employment. In many states, however, employers are prevented from conducting routine or random drug testing of existing employees, unless the employee appears intoxicated at work (although determining what constitutes “impaired behavior” is a complex issue itself), was involved in an accident, or holds a safety-sensitive position such as vehicle driver.

Step Carefully in Drug Screenings

Drug screenings are an important part of the hiring process for many companies. They help protect companies and their employees. It’s essential, however, that employers ensure they’re following all the rules, which have gotten more complex in the face of marijuana legalization. With the services of a professional pre-employment background screening company like DataCheck, you can protect your workers and your business and avoid negligent hiring lawsuits while still complying with the law.

Contact DataCheck today!