Imagine you just interviewed with a new company, and you’re qualified for the job. The interview went well; you nailed every question; and it really seems like they want to bring you onto the team.
A few days later, the hiring manager informs you that you’ve got the job … but there’s just one catch: They’ll need you to take a drug test (which includes cannabis) first.
Even in legal cannabis states, this scenario is all too common. Many workers are disqualified from jobs based on their cannabis consumption—and companies are taking note.
More than half of the United States has legalized some form of adult-use or medical marijuana. But every cannabis-friendly state—except for Maine—allows employers to test for and discriminate against cannabis consumers.
Luckily, companies are beginning to rethink their strict no-cannabis policies, treating the plant more along the lines of alcohol than cocaine. As long as employees aren’t drunk or high on the job, they won’t be fired for drinking alcohol or consuming cannabis outside of work.
So, what’s driving this change in attitude towards cannabis?
To understand why some employers are changing their tune on cannabis, there are three main trends to consider:
1. Most states now have some form of recreational or medical cannabis law allowing people to legally consume the plant. And in these states, there was a 75% increase in positive cannabis drug tests between 2013–2016. How can you effectively recruit for a job if you’re disqualifying so many people right off the bat?
2. The U.S. has experienced record low unemployment rates over the last few years. This makes it harder for companies to fill positions. Couple fewer people looking for work with dismissing cannabis consumers, and you’ve shrunk the job applicant pool too much.
3. Cannabis is really popular. According to Gallup, more than 64% of Americans agree with legalizing cannabis, the highest approval rating in the last half century. Attitudes are changing towards the plant, and for many it’s starting to be seen as medicine or a supplement, rather than an illicit drug.
Simply put, marijuana consumption and popularity are increasing. And to expand the potential pool of employees, many companies are removing cannabis from the list of substances that disqualifies a job candidate.
Even Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said in a congressional hearing that employers should consider taking a step back on blanket drug testing in order to “align drug testing policies with what’s right for the workforce.”
It’s hard to know exactly how many employers have lightened up on their no-tolerance cannabis policy. Many of them never publicly announced their decision. But some high-profile companies have made their new cannabis policy public, like the Denver Post and AutoNation, the country’s largest auto dealership operator.
Companies aren’t the only ones reconsidering their approach to cannabis, though. In New York City, where cannabis is decriminalized, Councilman Jumaane Williams is circulating new legislation that would ban employers from pre-employment cannabis drug tests.
In places that legalized medical cannabis more recently, such as Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, medical marijuana patients have just recently started winning lawsuits against employers over their cannabis policies. It’s likely that similar actions will be taken in other states with cannabis laws on the books.
It’s exciting to see many companies updating their policies, and it does seem there’s a growing trend in which employees aren’t being tested for cannabis, but the fact is that most employers still discriminate against marijuana consumption. According to a survey by the Society of Human Resource Management, 57% of U.S. employers still drug test for cannabis.
The world’s largest corporate drug screening company says that 78% of their clients still don’t accept candidates who test positive for cannabis. But it says that in states where some form of cannabis is legal, employers are beginning to rethink that policy. Even in states where marijuana’s legal, consuming the plant is still likely to keep many American workers out of a job.
Have you had a cannabis drug-testing experience in a legal cannabis state? Were you denied a job based on your marijuana consumption? Did your employer change their cannabis drug-testing policies to fit with the changing times? Let us know about your experience in the comments.
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