Last updated: October 25, 2021
Your company has evaluated the risks posed by employee drug use and decides that marijuana needs to be included in drug screening. What’s the best way to get results?
The first step is reviewing what’s already in place. If you’re together a plan where none exists, the easiest way to move forward is to enlist the help of a good testing service provider. If you already have one, then you already have a plan and this part of the process might be as simple as requesting a consultation.
If you’re developing a brand new plan or modifying one without the help of a top notch, comprehensive service provider, you’ll have to make sure that you’re following federal law and protecting your business from legal claims as best you can. The US Department of Labor provides online resources but there may be additional state laws that need to be considered. That’s only going to affect the planning process. No matter what the state says about pot use, you can keep marijuana out of your workplace.
Marijuana—officially illegal everywhere
Federal law makes all forms of the drug illegal. Court challenges recently settled whether medical marijuana use would prevent a company from firing someone testing positive for the drug. The decision made it clear that companies can fire employees testing positive for marijuana, regardless of the purpose.
Changing an existing testing policy in any case should be treated as implementing a brand new one. By going through all the same notification procedures with employees, you ensure that it’s a fair process and all employees have been made aware. Such a refresher can also serve as a useful legal safeguard. If your state has new laws on the books regarding pot use, it might be time to review your drug-free workplace policy to make sure employees are aware, even if nothing has changed.
Getting to the test and the advantage of mobile drug testing
At this point, you’ve decided to test for it and you know the law, but what about getting to the actual test? For every type of test, there’s at least two different opinions on how it can be beat (and let’s be honest, with the internet, there are thousands of “sure-fire” methods to beat drug tests). The problem for drug users is that any method they’ve heard about has also been heard by testing company procedure makers. This is where state laws play the biggest part. Certain methods to screen out cheating may not be legally available in every state, which means the best method of testing may vary. All that’s needed is to make sure your testing facility of choice is properly accounting for cheaters. Mobile drug testing facilities offer the best protection in that case, since cheaters have little or no time to prepare at a place of work.
Is there really a “best” method?
There are four main methods in use right now. Accuracy only depends on the procedure, which is handled by the testing company. Keep in mind that the test can be completely accurate based on the sample taken, but the amount of time that drugs are detectable in different samples depends on a number of factors. Frequency of drug use, bodily hydration, and whether the drug is water or fat soluble all matter in the type of test used to detect it. Marijuana is fat soluble, so it can be detected for a longer period than alcohol. Some tests only screen drugs that have been used recently. Others can provide results for usage 90 days previous or more.
Blood tests are extremely accurate if you want to know what’s in a person’s body at a particular time. In the case of testing after an accident, this may be the best way to determine if a person was impaired. It may even be required if the workplace accident involves more than just the employee at fault. There’s no beating this test, but this isn’t the kind of test used as a preventative measure and isn’t going to help with an employee’s drug history.
Urinalysis is a popular choice for drug testing because most drugs and alcohol stay in urine for several days. A urine test can be used to screen for a wide range of drugs and alcohol. Marijuana can be detected in urine for up to two weeks. This type of test has been used for over 30 years and that makes it one of the easiest to implement.
The longevity of this test in the American workplace means it’s the subject of a long list of urban legends. It’s not a surprise that page after page on the internet advertises ways to “beat” the urine test, but proper screening procedures should account for everything. The ability to cheat depends solely on whether the testers are allowed to inspect for methods of substitution and check for adulterants and even if the substituter succeeds, it might only mean a retest is necessary. Still, the test’s “success” depends largely on the reliability of the testing service. In the case of a mobile drug testing facility, the success rate is much higher than in an off-site lab.
Salival fluid collection is a relatively new method that is proving to be particularly good at detecting very recent drug use, especially with marijuana. It can detect alcohol and marijuana use within minutes or hours of ingestion. One of its advantages is that oral fluid collection can be done in a laboratory or on site in a gender neutral way. Since the fluids are collected by lab technicians, it is difficult for employees to cheat. Results are quicker, but some drugs can’t be screened and those that can only can be tested for usage in the past three days.
Hair testing may be the most accurate method for identifying chronic drug users and if that’s your goal, then this is the recommended “best” way to test for marijuana. Hair follicles provide testers with drug activity during the past ninety days. If the hair collection is done in full view of the technician, it’s impossible to beat. Some employees might be aware a test is coming and stop using for a few weeks until the application process is complete. They go back to using once they’ve passed. With hair testing, that strategy fails for the chronic marijuana user. This type of test also carries one of the best “honors” available from the marijuana using community—several sites call this the hardest type of test to beat.
What type is best for your company depends on a number of other factors, not the least of which is the price of the services available in your area. Once you decide what you want to know and how important it is to know it, you can choose the overall best method for you.