• LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+

Time to review your marijuana testing policy?

Get PDF file

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources

A hot economy, an evolving legal landscape and changing views about marijuana use have employers asking a once-unthinkable question: Is it time to drop pot from the list of drugs targeted by workplace testing programs?

Speaking at last month’s HR Specialist Summit in Las Vegas, employment lawyer Timothy Newton of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete noted that some employers have quit testing for marijuana for a simple reason: They continually had to fire otherwise good employees for failing drug tests, but had a hard time replacing them because so many applicants were testing positive, too.

“At some point,” Newton said, “you might have to ask, do we really want to test for this?”

He noted that employers deciding to forego marijuana testing may soon enjoy a competitive recruiting advantage. Plenty of great employees know they can use cannabis without harming their hiring prospects.

Use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 28 states. Recreational use is legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. The number of states legalizing medical use, recreational use or both is expected to grow, Newton said.

Under federal law, any use or possession of marijuana remains illegal. For some safety-sensitive positions, federal law requires employers to fire employees who test positive for marijuana. Under federal contracting laws, employers that do business with the U.S. government must maintain drug-free workplaces.

Even in states where marijuana use is legal, employers are free to drug-test employees and forbid them from using pot at work or being high on the job. “It’s just like alcohol in that regard,” Newton said.

However, Newton said, it may be time to review your anti-marijuana policy. “Certainly spell out what behavior is banned on company premises and company time,” he advised. “But you may want to consider positive test results on a case-by-case basis, rather than on a zero-tolerance, firing basis.”

Leave a Comment