Last updated: May 29, 2023
Changes to drug testing or marijuana laws can leave employers scrambling to stay on top of updating their drug testing policies. For instance, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level but individual states are choosing to legalize the drug for both medical and recreational use. Some state and local governments have gone so far as banning marijuana from pre-employment drug tests—namely Nevada and New York City.
Legalization and decriminalization
Marijuana legalization making the ballot somewhere during an election is becoming par for the course, isn’t it? Five new states voted to make either medical or recreational marijuana legal this past November.
- New Jersey
- South Dakota
That brings the total to 38 states whose residents obviously consider marijuana to be a harmless drug. As if that isn’t enough to keep up with, now we have individual cities getting in on the act. Marijuana use isn’t legal in the state of Wisconsin—yet. However, the city government in Madison held a vote in November too. They chose to remove most local penalties for marijuana possession and consumption for all adults 18 and older.
The news wasn’t a cause for celebration at the state’s largest college which is located in Madison though. The University of Wisconsin’s (UW) university newspaper, the Badger Herald, reported that students found with pot or paraphernalia on campus can be cited by university police.
Method or madness?
Last November, Oregon made history by decriminalizing all illegal drugs—everything! In addition, psychoactive mushrooms were legalized for therapeutic use. Was it a good move? Time will tell, but it’s worth noting here that Oregon’s substance abuse record is one of the highest in our nation. It also carries a reputation for the worst access to services in the country.
The plan is to treat drug addiction as a mental health issue instead of one of law and order. Will the new laws help turn things around?
The nation will be watching to see how this move plays out.
Drug testing may be more important than ever
With legalization and decriminalization of marijuana—and if Oregon’s lead is followed, all drugs may come into play—sweeping across the nation, drug testing in the workplace must continue. Putting it simply, employers can’t risk having someone on the job suffering from drug impairment because they affect thinking and motor skills.
Drug use puts the user and anyone who is in their vicinity at risk of being involved in an accident. It’s a proven fact that drug-free programs decrease the number of workplace accidents. Production goes up, absenteeism is less of a problem, and workplace morale becomes more positive.
If you haven’t implemented a drug-free program, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides an excellent outline that you can follow. Moreover, contacting a local drug testing facility can be your answer too. Most provide resources and will even help you write your policies and get them in place.
Your drug-free program is your best defense against drug use in the workplace. Employees who work for you now probably won’t risk being popped for a test—that fact presents a strong case for random drug testing policies, by the way. Furthermore, anyone considering applying for a job with your company is far less likely to do so when they learn that they have to pass a drug test first.