Does Legalizing Marijuana Affect Employer Drug Screening?

Employers have a challenging landscape to navigate when creating a drug testing policy. Several states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Others have also legalized or decriminalized its recreational use. With these new complexities, how should employers address drug testing? This short guide highlights some key points that you need to know.

Can Employers Continue Drug Testing for Marijuana in the Workplace?

When an employer creates its drug testing policy, it may or may not be due to safety concerns. Regardless, employers may still conduct drug testing at their discretion. The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 also requires some federal contractors and all federal grantees to test for a wide range of drugs.

Employers may choose to fire employees who fail employer-mandated drug testing. Moreover, employers can opt not to hire job candidates who fail these tests. Federal laws and agency regulations compel some employers to conduct testing, particularly in jobs where safety is a major issue.

A random drug testing policy is helpful in these cases. Random testing discourages the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace. To avoid biased targeting based on race, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status, you should ensure that these tests are truly random. A computer-generated double-algorithm approach is helpful. Moreover, you must clearly communicate your drug testing policy to employees in advance.

Workplace Safety Is Still a Priority

Whether medical or recreational, marijuana use is patently dangerous in high-risk occupations. When it comes to random drug testing laws, unannounced tests may be allowed to ensure compliance with federal laws and agency regulations. Workplaces should also ensure that they’re following state and local ordinances. Check pre-employment drug testing laws by state for specific details.

DOT Drug Testing Rules

The U.S. Department of Transportation has set down federal drug testing regulations for workers in certain types of jobs. Marijuana, in particular, can impact a person’s coordination and motor skills. It can also slow down reaction times and reduce an individual’s sensory skills. Employers and employees in several occupations must comply with Department of Transportation drug testing regulations:

  • Commercial vehicle operators
  • All federal, state, and local agencies
  • For-hire motor carriers, including bus companies
  • Private motor carriers such as shuttle services
  • Religious organizations that offer transportation services
  • Civic organizations, including Scouting and veteran transport

Besides the hiring process, drug tests are mandated after road accidents or if management suspects use. The DOT also allows each transportation industry employer to enact its own random drug testing policy to ensure compliance with its drug-free workplace regulations. Department of Transportation regulations also apply to aviation, railroad, public transit, Coast Guard, pipeline, and natural gas workers.

Other Federal, State, and Local Laws

The Department of Defense and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have their own drug testing requirements. Testing may be mandatory in safety-sensitive industries such as construction, law enforcement, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, utilities, security, and education. It can also be required in competitive sports.

Employer Rights Surpass Legalization Laws

Employer rights, federal laws, and agency regulations supersede state and local laws that legalize the use of marijuana. As such, employers have a duty to ensure safe environments for their workers, clients, and other constituents. Regardless of legalization trends, you can institute a random drug testing policy and other measures within your workplace. ARCpoint Labs of Austin offers drug and alcohol testing to help you maintain a drug-free workplace. Get in touch with us through our contact form.

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