Last updated: December 4, 2023
Just Say No! A familiar battle cry in the US war on drugs during the 1980s and even the early 1990s, was not having much success in drug prevention when it came to the workplace.
In an effort to combat the ever growing drug problem, the Drug-Free Workplace Act was signed into law in 1988. Employers were (and are still today) encouraged to enact drug testing policies in order to receive incentives from federal and state government. It was not by coincidence that it was in 1988 that Quest formed its Diagnostic Drug Testing Index (DTI). The goal being to provide an analysis based on the company’s de-identified laboratory data of national workplace drug positivity trends each year.
Over the past 30 years, they have been the finger on workplace drug test testing results. It proved a worthy quest, indeed, when the results that first year showed an overall positive drug test results among American workers to be at 13.6 percent. Since then, overall percentage numbers have decreased with the lowest overall drug positivity results being a decade ago. There has been an ebb and flow over this last decade. 2017 statistics reported good news on the opiate front. Workplace positivity percentages for this drug are on the decline! Marijuana detection, however, is not.
Marijuana detection has been on the rise for the past five years
That makes since when you consider that more and more states are legalizing medical marijuana use and it is currently legal for recreational use in ten.
While it’s no surprise that the percentage of workers showing positive test results for marijuana is on the rise, employers might be surprised to learn from where the highest marijuana use rates come from.
Only three of the top 10 US metropolitan areas that tested highest for marijuana use in 2017 were in one of the states with the highest marijuana use.
The metropolitan areas are:
- Dallas, TX (5.27%)
- Reno, NV (3.54%)
- Worcester, MA (3.48%)
- Jackson, TN (3.23%)
- Flint, MI (3.23%)
- Springfield, MA (3.19%)
- Ann Arbor, MI (3.12%)
- Detroit, MI (3.11%)
- Tallahassee, FL (3.11%)
- Waco, TX (3.09%)
The states with the highest positivity when testing for marijuana are:
- Oregon (3.9%)
- Maine (3.5%)
- Massachusetts (3.1%)
- Rhode Island (3.1%)
- Vermont (2.9%)
- Michigan (2.8%)
- Nevada (2.7%)
- Washington (2.6%)
- Arizona (2.5%)
- Colorado (2.5%)
Granted, six of the metropolitan areas making the list for highest positivity results in the workplace are in those three states, Michigan, Maine or Nevada. But, the fact that four are not is could be sobering. Widespread marijuana use is everywhere.
How does that breakdown pertaining to industry?
Marijuana is also the most commonly detected drug when looking at a breakdown across the industry sectors of the United States. The highest number of positive rates for marijuana in 2017 was found in the Accomodation and Food Service industry. In fact, it topped out at a whopping 34 percent higher when averaged with the national rate for the general US workforce. In total, eight sectors of industry have experienced consistent increase of marijuana positivity rates by at least 20 percent between the years of 2015 and 2017.
- Transportation and Warehousing (33.3%)
- Other Services (except Public Administration) (33.3%)
- Construction (26.7%)
- Wholesale Trade (23.5%)
- Manufacturing (23.1%)
- Accommodation and Food Services (20.7%)
- Administrative Support, Waste Management and Remediation Services (19.0%)
- Retail Trade (18.5%)
What do these stats say about the big picture?
Specifically, the stats document the fact that the statement purporting that marijuana detection is highest in metropolitan areas could just be brushed off as you would an urban legend. The fact that only three of the states showing the highest marijuana use coincides with the metropolitan area list proves that. But, can we just brush our hands with a “that’s that” attitude?
What do the stats really say? They say that the use of marijuana by employees is increasing. Everywhere. All the time.
Detection equipment that will enable on the spot detection of someone under the influence from the effects of THC are right there on the horizon, as well.
Some employers are aware of the negative impact the increased marijuana use is having on their businesses regarding their employees and are discreetly removing marijuana from their drug testing panels. Others are still weighing the pros and cons.
No matter where you stand on the topic, the debate on marijuana is not at its end.