Seattle Times: “It’s Time For Employers To Rethink Marijuana, Drug-Testing Policies”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 17, 2012

    A majority of Americans are now demanding we reassess our cannabis policies. As I argue in The Seattle Times, this reassessment should also include amending employers’ policies that sanction workers’ off-the-job use of marijuana.

    It’s time for employers to rethink marijuana, drug-testing policies
    via The Seattle Times

    Voters have declared that it is time to rethink our marijuana policies. It’s also time to rethink the practice of drug testing for pot.

    The enactment of Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana use in Washington state, is an ideal opportunity for employers to re-examine their drug-testing policies regarding employees’ off the job cannabis use. Those who consume alcohol legally and responsibly while off the job do not suffer sanctions from their employers unless their work performance is adversely affected. Employers should treat those Washingtonians who consume cannabis legally while away from the workplace similarly.

    Programs that mandate the random testing of employees’ urine for alleged traces of drug residue are invasive and ineffective. They neither identify workers’ who may be impaired nor do they contribute to a safe work environment.

    … A positive test result for carboxy THC, marijuana’s primary metabolite, provides little if any substantive information to employers. That is because carboxy THC, unlike most other drug metabolites, is fat-soluble and may remain detectable in urine for days, weeks or, in some rare cases, months after a person has ceased using cannabis. Most other common drug metabolites are water soluble and therefore undetectable some 24 hours or so after ingestion.

    In short, a positive test result for cannabis does not provide any definitive information regarding an employee’s frequency of cannabis use, when he or she last consumed it, or whether he or she may have been under the influence of the substance at the time the drug screening was administered.

    … Writing in the journal Addiction, investigators at the University of Victoria in British Columbia reviewed 20 years of published literature pertaining to the efficacy of workplace drug testing, with a special emphasis on marijuana. “[I]t is not clear that heavy cannabis users represent a meaningful job safety risk unless using before work or on the job,” they concluded. “Urinalysis testing is not recommended as a diagnostic tool to identify employees who represent a job safety risk from cannabis use.”

    So why are Washington employers still engaging in it?

    Read the entire text of the op/ed here.

    47 responses to “Seattle Times: “It’s Time For Employers To Rethink Marijuana, Drug-Testing Policies””

    1. Denise Scott says:

      Cannabis should be treated the same as alcohol. The problem is the THC in testing shows use within 28 days, Alcohol 48hr’s.Ilost my job because I tested positive for cannaboids. I worked in a office.

      [Paul Armentano responds: To clarify, carboxy THC — an inert byproduct of THC — can remain present in urine for days or weeks after past use. THC is not present in urine. It is detectable in blood, but has a more shorter half-life than carboxy THC.]

    2. dave says:

      is the 20 year study a scientifically based study? Is is deemed reliable ? If so, why is Norml not using it to prod the FDA, DEA, Congress and President to include it for the basis of downgrading marijuana from schedule 1? Are there other studies by respected universities or country scientific groups?

    3. Akil Hashim says:

      11-COOH-THC is not psychoactive itself 11-COOH-THC being used to derive a “blood cannabis level”

    4. RUT says:

      I believe employers are still engaged in this practice because they get a reduced insurance rate for their company when they test! This will have to be addressed by the insurance commissioner. This grey area will be a money maker for law enforcement. they will try to give you a DUI just for having smoked not because you are impaired.

    5. phrtao says:

      I realise this article questions the appropriateness of drug testing for cannabis use on several levels but is the real thinking behind this article that pretty soon a significant proportion of people in Washington (including those is responsible jobs) will test positive – because they expect a massive rise in cannabis use. This will sound bad to some people but if cannabis use is replacing use of over the counter painkillers or alcohol then the world may well be a much better place. One of the notions that needs to be disregarded by people is that more cannabis use means more harm – that is just a prohibitionist lie !

    6. Gone2PotLESSness says:

      Like the DUID drugged-driving provisions of Colorado and Washington states’ recently-passed cannabis legalization measures,
      employer drug testing ought to ONLY measure actual ACTIVE TetraHydroCannabinol / present performance impairment, NOT inactive metabolites from days / weeks / months past.

      (There ARE on-the-spot field-sobriety tests that indicate actual THC,
      but THESE are not as well-known, still new / novel and are more expensive to implement / change to from the zero-tolerance / zero-sense variety).

      The only thing present regime of pre-employment and workplace testing does is steer cannabis partakers towards
      far more deleterious alternatives, (alcohol, opiates, benzodiazepines, etc), having shorter metabolic half-lives and thus, tacitly-endorsing their dangers, (ALCOHOLISM, pill-toxicity, O.D. deaths), over the SAFER,
      (but politically-discriminated-against), wonder herb.

    7. Bradson says:

      Marijuana prohibition was never about impairment, abuse or addiction. There is no requirement in drug laws to show that a person is impaired, addicted or that they have caused any actual harm for them to be subject to arrest or other penalty.

      It’s all about criminalizing a personal preference. After all, neither smoking nor substance addiction are, of themselves, illegal. If they were, perhaps half or more of our family and friends would be subject to arrest for their alcohol, tobacco and caffeine habits.

    8. mark says:

      Drug testing is BY DESIGN a search for pot smokers.

      An alcoholic can clean up in 8 hours.

      A coke addict can clean up in 3 days.

      A pot smoker like me takes 45 days to clean up.

      And I am only talking urinalysis.

      If you want to deal poker for Harrah’s, you have to take a hair follicle test that can go back 10 fucking years!!!!!!!! Why do they want to know if I smoke a joint 10 years ago? it has absolutely NOTHING to do with job performance TODAY or TOMORROW!!!!


      • darkhorse says:

        Right on, no drug testing. I’ve been smoking for 50 years and in that time I had 2 jobs each lasting almost 20 years each and did my job quite well, drove my vehicle without accidents, married and raised 3 fine adult humans who are now potheads and are very successful at their jobs. I never toke a drug test till recently but of course I did not pass – no job. Fogedaboutit. drug testing only keeps the pot smokers down.

    9. Galileo Galilei says:

      People addicted to nicotine spend at least 30 minutes of the workday hitting up for their fix, probably more.

      Apparently though, this doesn’t adversely affect their productivity the way smoking a joint over the weekend does.

    10. Anonymous says:

      Hell yes! I have been living this nightmare for my entire adult life.