Five years into legal cannabis in Colorado, a recent study conducted by the Mountain States Employers Council found that 70 percent of employers in Northern Colorado have some sort of drug testing policy, and almost all of them are still testing for pot. The study also showed that more than half of employers fire employees for a positive test for pot use, even if it’s the first offense.
This means that even though the drug is legal both recreationally and medicinally in the state, employers are still firing employees for cannabis use, an issue that’s more complicated than it may seem to the naked eye. Since cannabis can stay in the blood of someone who used it for weeks and there is currently no reliable way to test if someone is stoned on the spot, people could be getting fired if they use cannabis on their time off, but never during the work week.
Some employers might want their employees to use cannabis, the owner of a dispensary, for example. Others need to find ways to ensure that their employees aren’t stoned on the job, especially if they’re operating heavy or dangerous machinery or vehicles. Before legalization, it was a cut-and-dry issue: if someone tested positive for a drug, cannabis or otherwise, they were fired. Now that legalization is in effect, many businesses don’t know how to handle the complication, so they continue the practice.
They could pay for training to look for signs of inebriation from cannabis or other drugs, but there aren’t currently any incentives for that. On the other hand, there are often insurance incentives for conducting drug tests, and although they can be expensive, they save companies money in the long run due to fewer drug-related claims.
Some suggestions for fixing the issue? Curtis Graves, the staff attorney for Mountain States Employers Council, provided a few. Most employers agree that legalization at the federal level would impact testing practices. Another would be Colorado passing legislation to protect marijuana users in the workplace: one example he gave was an Arizona law that states that testing without proof of impairment isn’t enough to fire or deny hiring someone, in regards to medical marijuana use, which is legal in that state.
While it’s more complex than, “weed is legal,” it is still an important factor: citizens in states that have legalized cannabis, recreational or medical, should be able to take their medicine or smoke a bowl after work without repercussion.