Last updated: December 4, 2023
The marijuana drug test is one of the oldest and most commonly used tests, but has recently become more important. If you’re wondering why, it’s because of the relatively recent legalization of marijuana. This poses an interesting challenge for employers, with some choosing to begin testing for marijuana use, and others choosing to stop. Despite its legalization, marijuana still poses a valid safety concern.
Currently, standard drug panels, which include 5 panel, 10 panel, 12 panel and DOT drug tests, all include marijuana. In other words—unless specifically removed, any test could be considered a marijuana drug test.
In a tightening labor market, some employers believe the incentive to test less looks enticing as marijuana drug testing does have a cost, and, if it’s legal, why bother? This thinking, however, ignores the safety and productivity impact of marijuana use. Legalization has been an inconsistently implemented process, varying widely from state to state. For companies operating in multiple states, it creates problems with standardization of compliance policies company-wide. Furthermore, marijuana use is still illegal at the national level.
In the long run, it is much more cost effective to maintain a drug free workplace. In order to avoid the effects of marijuana use, it is critical to have a clearly defined workplace drug testing policy, including employee and supervisor education, testing protocols, repercussions for drug use.
Reasons to conduct a marijuana drug test
A documented drug testing policy is designed both to protect the company from liability, and to educate employees on what’s expected. This drug policy should be fair and reasonable, clearly stated, fully explained, and compliant with all applicable laws at the local, state, and federal level, in the locations where the company has employees. Failing to do this may result in invalidated test results and possibly even an HR-related lawsuit. Fortunately, these issues can be avoided by following a written drug testing policy.
Pre-employment drug test
As one of the most common reasons to perform a drug test, a pre-employment drug test is intended to weed out potential employees who use marijuana. This helps employers to avoid problem employees in the first place.
Random drug test
A random drug test ensures that employees did not merely refrain from drug use during the applicant phase. It also helps to maintain higher workplace productivity, morale, and safety because employees know they are subject to a drug test at a moment’s notice. The Department of Transportation requires yearly drug tests, but some companies conduct quarterly or even monthly random drug testing.
Post-accident drug test
Immediately after an accident, an employer may conduct (or may be required to conduct) a post-accident drug test. In addition to regulatory and/or workers comp insurance reasons, this also discourages drug use since employees know they can be tested if they are involved in a workplace accident.
Reasonable suspicion drug test
A reasonable suspicion drug test may be conducted if a supervisor believes, based on appearance, behavior, speech, smell, and other indicators. These indicators must be clearly documented in your drug testing policy.
Return to duty
After a positive drug test result, a return to duty drug test is required before an employee can return to a safety-sensitive role. This is intended to ensure the employee has not consumed any drugs since the last drug test.
DOT drug test
Employers that are bound by Department of Transportation regulations must conduct a DOT drug test in specific situations. As opposed to non-DOT employers, this is not optional and must be conducted according to DOT regulations.
How is a marijuana drug test conducted
A marijuana drug test can be performed using any modern method, and each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Not-DOT employers are free to choose, while DOT employers must adhere to current DOT drug testing regulations.
Mouth swab drug test
The mouth swab drug test is the most convenient method because it can be administered literally anywhere, even in plain sight of others. The biggest drawback is in the narrow detection window, however, it makes up for that by being able to detect much sooner than other methods. This is an especially effective marijuana drug test when you suspect very recent use.
A collection specialist will collect a saliva sample by wiping the inside of a test subject’s cheek using a sterile cotton swab. This sample will be placed into a special specimen envelope, and depending on the employer’s needs, may either be tested on site to obtain intimidate results, or delivered to the lab by the collector. This method is incredibly convenient and can usually be finished in just a few minutes.
Hair follicle drug test
A hair follicle drug test may be used in testing employees with a history of marijuana use because it can detect drug use from up to 90 days ago. Because of this, it is typically more costly. In some cases, significantly. While the extended detection window is a powerful advantage, it does have a disadvantage as well. The most prominent is that employees may object to a drug test requiring their hair to be cut. This objection can be avoided by collecting hair from other areas of the body.
To conduct a hair follicle drug test, a 1 inch section of the employee’s hair will be cut as a sample, with the focus being the portion nearest the scalp. That hair sample is then secured in a special specimen envelope, which the collector will transport to the lab for testing. This test is fast and easy, and can usually be performed in just a couple of minutes.
Urine drug test
As the industry standard for several decades, the urine drug test is cost-effective, but it does come with some challenges. The first, and probably most significant is the fact that it requires the handling of someone else’s urine. That’s generally not something people enjoy. It also requires a collector of the same sex as well as a private restroom for collection. This method provides a moderate detection window, which is typically about 30 days. This is also the only method currently allowed for DOT drug testing.
A collection specialist will require an employee to collect urine in a specimen bottle. This bottle is then capped and secured with a tamper-resistant strip, which the employee will initial. The collector will then transport the sample to the lab to be tested. In most cases, this test can be performed in just a few minutes, but if the employee has difficulty urinating, it may take much longer.
Cannabis has psychoactive and physiological effects when consumed. Aside from a subjective change in perception and, most notably, mood, the most common short-term physical and neurological effects include increased heart rate, increased appetite, and consumption of food, lowered blood pressure, impairment of short-term and working memory, psychomotor coordination, and concentration. Long-term effects are less clear.
While many psychoactive drugs clearly fall into the category of stimulant, depressant or hallucinogen, cannabis exhibits a mix of all properties, perhaps leaning the most towards hallucinogenic or psychedelic properties, though with other effects quite pronounced as well.
There are no verified human deaths associated with cannabis overdose.
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug (15.2 million past-month users) according to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). That year, marijuana was used by 75.6 percent of current illicit drug users (defined as having used the drug sometime in the 30 days before the survey) and was the only drug used by 53.3 percent of them. You can expect that number to increase dramatically due to marijuana legalization.
Cannabis can be habit-forming and the development of cannabis dependence in some users has been well established; its effects on intelligence, memory, respiratory functions and the possible relationship of cannabis use to mental disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis, Depersonalization disorder and depression are still under discussion.
The high lipid-solubility of cannabinoids results in their persisting in the body for long periods of time. Even after a single administration of THC, detectable levels of THC can be found in the body for weeks or longer (depending on the amount administered and the sensitivity of the assessment method). A number of researchers have suggested that this is an important factor in marijuana’s effects, perhaps because cannabinoids may accumulate in the body, particularly in the lipid membranes of neurons.
Cannabis is consumed in many different ways, most of which involve inhaling vaporized cannabinoids (“smoke”) from small pipes, bongs (portable version of hookah with water chamber), paper-wrapped joints or tobacco-leaf-wrapped blunts. Alternatively, the cannabis plant flowers may be finely sifted producing kief, a powder especially rich in the oil-glands or trichomes which contain the highest amounts of cannabinoids.