From the article “Blunt Talk: Marijuana Trends and How the Drug Testing Industry Can Fight It” by Jo McGuire
As trends in the United States move towards the legalization of recreational marijuana, the general public is beginning to believe marijuana is “harmless” and “safe”. With these common misconceptions, drug testing in the workplace is becoming extremely relevant.
The debate should not be viewed as a standard of drug-free vs. drug users but rather the reality of safety vs. risk and loss.
An interesting case comes from a Colorado cannabis hash-oil cartridge store. The owner, Todd Mitchem of O.penVAPE, withdrew his plans to drug test employees due to criticism from peers within the industry as well as industry giants (like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). Many called his decision “drug war ignorance” stating “it’s ineffective, inefficient and degrading”. His withdrawal of this decision was to avoid “serious brand damage and losing respect with their key customer base” (The Federalist Papers vis The Daily Caller News Foundation). However, Mitchem’s decision as an employer was based on safety. This decision went against one of the marijuana industry’s greater goals: to discourage any drug testing not related to the Department of Transportation (DOT) federally mandated compliance.
Here is the blunt truth: we are in the weeds with Weed!
Will employees comply? How much THC is too much? How long until the drug test result will be negative? What is “impaired”? These are just a few of the many questions facing the drug testing industry. The bottom line question from the drug testing industry to employees is this: how much loss and risk is acceptable to the employer compared to the cost of prevention?
Costs and Risks:
A study published in the Journal of Legal Medicine shows that employees who test positive for marijuana had 55% more industrial accidents and 85% more injuries compared to those who tested negative. Additionally, employees who tested positive had absenteeism rates 75% higher than those who tested negative. This cost increase is a huge risk factor for employers but are often not tracked by the small business owners who don’t understand or track the losses of productivity and the costs of accidents, injuries, absenteeism, and employee turnover. It is estimated that drug and alcohol abuse use costs the U.S. economy $246 billion per year (NIDA). Whereas a consistent workplace drug testing program use in conjunction with an effective policy has been proven to save the employers money in the long-term.
Yes, drug testing costs money too. But compared to the impending price tag of neglecting to maintain an effective drug testing program. If we can help change the misconception to one of employee health and safety, we’ll do a great service to our customers.
Denial vs. Reality:
According to the NSDUH, 9% of the workforce uses drugs regularly (SAMHSA). In a small business of around 10 employees, it is very likely that at least one employee uses drugs on a regular basis and even comes to work impaired. According to the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index, employees testing positive for marijuana have increased 6.2% nationally, but in Colorado and Washington, positive tests have increased 20% and 23%, respectively. This is a change in 24 years of decreased positive results and experts are crediting recent legalization of marijuana to the increase of the workforce using the drug.
It’s no longer true that the effects of marijuana wear off in a few hours. Some effects last for 24 hours or more. Dr. Bob DuPont of the Institute for Behavior and Health supports this claim as marijuana use saturates the brain with THC causing long-sustained impairment on tasks related to driving weeks after the marijuana use has stopped. Risking employee safety in the workplace is not worth folding to the pressure to scrap drug testing and drug-free policies.
Solutions in Action:
The question now is HOW?! How can you, as an employer or employee, focus on safety and productivity in the workplace?
- Get educated on the information pertaining to the impact of drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace by following Employee Screening Services on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and on this website blog.
- Educate your employees, co-workers, employers, and community about the benefits of safe and healthy workplaces.
- Call Employee Screening Services to find out how you can implement a drug-free workplace policy with a regular drug-testing policy.