Washington state legalized marijuana in December 2012, and since then, small businesses and larger companies have seen positive drug test results triple to 15%. In many cases, this jump is leading turnover and fewer accepted applicants.
The legalization of recreational marijuana has made it difficult for employers to ensure a drug-free workplace. Companies must now establish a larger applicant pool and invest more time in initial screenings to weed out applicants who won’t pass their drug tests.
Many business owners, HR managers, and hiring firms have learned firsthand that current and prospective employees are confused about the details of the law. Both Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults 21+, yet some 18-year old applicants have implied that they have a right to smoke as well. Others think that the legalization of marijuana bars companies from enforcing drug-free workplace policies, which isn’t true — people can and will still lose their jobs if found smoking or high on the job.
Although enforcing drug-free workplace policies in states with legalized marijuana can be a more involved process, many companies, especially those in the manufacturing, construction, and transportation industries, recognize the importance of continuing and even expanding drug-free workplace programs.
ARCpoint Labs’ own Terry Johnson, president of ARCpoint Labs of Vancouver, WA, has seen a 25% increase in individuals testing positive for marijuana use over the last six months. There is some concern when it comes to the legalization of marijuana, since confirming a positive on a drug screening does increase the price of drug testing. This increase might cause business owners to ignore marijuana test results or eliminate the drug from their drug testing altogether.
For now, companies are finding their footing as marijuana legalization continues to play out. Nationwide, employers, marijuana advocates, lawmakers, and others are watching how legalization unfolds in the two states — particularly those whose state governments are also considering legalization of recreational or medical marijuana.