Last updated: November 27, 2023
It seems as if everyone is hiring right now, so if you don’t fall into that category, congratulations! Some employers are getting pretty desperate. They’ve stopped drug testing employees in hopes it will entice people to apply for open positions.
Is that really a good idea though?
The number one reason that employers drug test is for safety’s sake—using drugs affects a person’s cognitive and motor skills. Employees who use drugs put themselves and everyone they’re in contact with at a higher risk of being involved in an accident. That could be other employees, customers, or a random family traveling on the highway who might encounter someone delivering your goods.
Of course, if your company is mandated by the Department of Transportation (DOT), you’re obligated to have all drivers submit to the DOT drug test. It’s currently a urine drug test, but the DOT has requested that be changed to the hair follicle drug test. Moreover, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) approved the oral fluid drug test, also referred to as the mouth swab test, as an alternative to urine drug testing back in October 2019. SAMHSA didn’t automatically incorporate oral fluid testing into the mix though. Federal entities decide individually whether or not to approve oral fluid testing at their own discretion.
Validating the importance
Marijuana legalization threw HR departments into a quandary as to how to handle employee drug testing. Advocates want testing banned because it’s legal to smoke on your off-hours. Of course, consuming alcohol is legal on your off-hours, too, as long as you’re drinking responsibly anyway.
The problem is that the test identifies drug metabolites instead of the parent drug and marijuana metabolites are tenacious. The majority of them stow away in the fat cells awaiting secretion and fat cells don’t like to let anything go.
Most drugs are completely out of the system within hours or days after discontinuing use. That’s not the case where marijuana is concerned though. Even those who occasionally use the drug can test positive for weeks. If you’re a chronic pot smoker, it can show up in your system for three months—or even longer for some.
Employers say they can’t find people to fill positions because they’re testing positive for pot—so they’re dropping it from the test. Amazon, for example, recently announced it’s dropping marijuana from its employee drug test. Moreover, Amazon encouraged their delivery partners—small businesses not mandated by DOT regulations—to do the same.
In corresponding with delivery partners, Amazon says that dropping marijuana testing can increase the number of job applicants they have applying for driving positions by up to 400%!
That’s a pretty hefty margin alright.
Putting that into perspective
Even though people consider marijuana a “harmless” drug, it still affects a person’s mind. The word “spacey” gets linked to pot smokers because it’s hard for them to stay focused. Additionally, their coordination may be impacted, and mistakes can be made.
Some subcontractors say they took the advice and now that they only screen for “hard” drugs, like amphetamines and opiates, they’re successfully hiring candidates.
Others decided to carry on with marijuana testing. They’re concerned about insurance and liability implications in states where marijuana is legal. The “what if” factor is a strong deterrent for many because mom and pop companies know they’d go under in a heartbeat if hit with a lawsuit involving a stoned employee.
Furthermore, if someone is confident of their abilities to operate “normally” in the world while they’re high, what’s stopping them from firing up before they start their route?
Whether it’s removing marijuana only or completely eliminating employee drug testing within the company, employers should weigh the pros and cons. Don’t just cave under the pressure and come to deeply regret that decision in the future.
For such a time as this
People often turn to drugs or alcohol to help them cope with tough times. And, it’s been one tough year. That said, deaths attributed to drug overdose reached 93,000—here in the United States alone—last year.
It’s almost impossible to comprehend that the number represents a 29% increase in deaths during the pandemic compared to the year prior.
And, now that things are trying to get back to a semblance of normal, employees who may not be able to put down the drugs as easily as they assumed they would, are heading back to the workforce.
Drug use won’t go undetected forever. Drug testing can identify someone who needs help before it presents itself in some other way. Rather than pushing this monumental problem under the rug because people are failing the test, think of drug testing as a tool to encourage people to get help.
Overcoming addiction is tough, but it’s doable. Failing a drug test is a pretty big wake-up call. Breaking the bad news coupled with your sincere encouragement and expression of hope for their future could save their life.