DEC 27, 2018 9:54 AM PST

No More Drug Screens for Marijuana?

WRITTEN BY: Amy Loriaux

Testing positive for marijuana, or rather its metabolite, THC-COOH, can cause a prospective applicant her chances at getting a job. Many companies engage in this practice, which makes perfectly good sense. They want to weed (no pun intended) out those with criminal history or drug users (heroin and cocaine are also tested for, as well as several other illicit substances. But what happens when a company is in a state which has lax marijuana laws?


Well according to an article in The Denver Postemployers are starting to rethink its policy on testing for marijuana. In a state, such as Colorado, where recreational marijuana use is legal, several potentially great candidates are barred by this policy. As the article points out, found the two industries and with the highest rate of positive test results for marijuana were also two that have to deal with consumers. Retail and healthcare workers were found to have the highest rate of positive marijuana tests, at 5.3% and 4.7%, respectively. Transportation and warehousing, finance and insurance and wholesale trade were other industries that showed double-digit increases in positive pot tests.

The study was performed by Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DQX), one of the largest blood and urinalysis testing companies relied on by several companies. In their analysis, which comes from examining more than 10 million test results that are part of the lab company’s Drug Testing Index, saw prescription opiate use drop by double digits and an increase in marijuana in states that recently enacted recreational use.

Barry Sample, the senior director of science and technology for Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions said that "Clearly I think that there are likely some attitudinal changes with respect to marijuana, which may be driving some of the increases we’re seeing". In other words, fewer companies may be nixing marijuana as a substance banned for employment. This seems like a likely scenario, as labor lawyers conclude that the legalization of marijuana use is having a big effect on how employers view employee use of the drug.

Source: Shutterstock

Alison Sullivan, career trends expert at Glassdoor, told, that, due to the tight labor market with the number of jobless at its lowest level in 18 years, “companies are feeling the near-record unemployment across the country today, making it increasingly difficult to hire,”. Getting rid of a potential barrier to employment could really come in hand at a time like this. With thirty-four states permitting marijuana use in some capacity, learning the fine details of the patchwork of regulations brings a nightmare of paperwork for human resources.

These tests are really meant to discern whether a candidate can perform safely and competently on the job. The problem with marijuana is that it can stay in your system up to thirty days of abstinence (and remain in hair for six months). This long detox process has been decried as unfair. A user may be clean for a whole month before drug testing whereas a person who had a cocaine binge a week ago will show up clean. Now that the industry is facing much larger numbers of applicants with drug screens positive for marijuana use, they are beginning to lax their testing requirements as well as state governments. 

According to attorney James Reidy, chair of the labor and employment group at the law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green, an increasingly common viewpoint among employers is: “It’s an artificial barrier to employment. ... It’s no different than having a beer Sunday night.” 

Sources: The Denver Post,,,

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
I currently work at a small CRO involved in clinical trial management.
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