Last updated: January 25, 2021
Taking a step toward legalizing marijuana at the federal level, the House passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act on Friday. Introduced on July 23, 2019, the MORE Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and goes so far as to include erasing prior convictions.
The news thrilled marijuana advocates, of course. Employers, though, not so much—especially those that employ the safety-sensitive workforce.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates drug testing of the safety-sensitive workforce. What will happen if the Senate follows suit and the federal government legalizes marijuana? Will the DOT remove the drug from their test panel?
Thinking it through
Even though society at large now views marijuana as a “harmless” drug, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a drug. People who smoke marijuana or consume edibles do it for the same reason someone snorts coke or shoots up meth—
They want to get high.
Employers, who put drug-free programs in place to deter drug use, do so, mainly, because it’s a matter of safety. Employees who use drugs are a danger to themselves and everyone around them.
Drug impairment affects both thinking and motor skills—both of which one must be in complete control of while on the job.
Using marijuana induces a sense of well-being and peacefulness. The term “spacey” associated with using the drug indicates that users are easily distracted or not focused on what’s going on immediately around them.
Other short-term side effects include:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Dry mouth and throat
- Sleepiness or drowsiness
- Impaired or reduced short-term memory
- Reduced or impaired comprehension
- Impaired motor skills affecting coordination
Moreover, forming a psychological dependence on the drug means that you have to ingest more THC as time passes to achieve the desired effect.
Chronic use of the drug is suspected to lead to respiratory issues including emphysema or COPD. However, to date, the current findings are mixed. Researchers need to conduct more studies to come to a final conclusion.
A couple of legs to stand on
Once we’ve put things in perspective, things don’t look nearly as bleak whether you employ the general or safety-sensitive workforce.
Marijuana impairment puts people at risk across the board.
Whether you’re driving a truck or stocking shelves, you shouldn’t be doing it when you’re stoned.
The Department of Transportation is totally aware of that fact. There is already a provision in place should marijuana be legalized at the federal level.
The DOT doesn’t prohibit safety-sensitive employers from implementing a “company authority” testing program. This program would be “in addition to, and distinct from, the required DOT testing program.”
These tests aren’t limited to the urine drug test either. For instance, some trucking companies have drivers submit to a hair follicle drug test in addition to the urine drug test—even if it only identifies the same drugs mandated by the DOT.
Marijuana advocates already call for removing it from company drug tests in states that legalized it. That’s because the current testing methods identify marijuana metabolites.
Marijuana metabolites stay in the system long past the point of impairment. Someone who smokes pot occasionally can test positive for several days after. Those who use it every day can test positive for months!
The alcohol breathalyzer identifies alcohol found in the breath indicating current impairment.
If the MORE ACT passes, the easiest way to handle the problem that removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act would cause is by having a way to test for current impairment.
Did you know there’s a company that is nearly ready to put their marijuana breathalyzer on the market? It’s going to be a game-changer for police officers and employers alike.
In light of the fact, that the MORE Act has to make its way onto the floor for discussion—which could take a while—it’s likely that employers can have the device in-hand before a vote is taken.
With the ability to test for current impairment, employees who live in states that legalized recreational or medical marijuana can use the drug responsibly during their off-hours without fearing repercussions if hit with a drug test.
It also presents an argument for employers who have been forced to remove marijuana from their pre-employment drug tests. Employers could force those cities and states to revisit their decisions if they push back with a test for current impairment.
There’s always a bright side
Legalizing marijuana at the federal level has been something that many employers have dreaded for a long time now. Just when it appears closer than ever, a solution that allows employers and employees to come together and resolve the issue is sitting on the horizon.
Even if the MORE Act is passed and marijuana is legalized at the federal level, employers will be left to decide whether or not they will continue testing for marijuana. With a marijuana breathalyzer available, testing for marijuana impairment at the moment the test is given should silence the cry of those who feel continued testing is unfair.
We could say funny how that works, but maybe it’s not a coincidence. Maybe it’s an example of all things working together for good. Our country, as a whole, could use an example like that right now.