By Bill Current, President, Current Consulting Group, LLC | DATIA Focus Magazine | Spring 2016
When it comes to the legalization of marijuana there is a lot of disagreement. It seems that for every claim made by the pro-legalization folks (i.e. marijuana use doesn’t cause harm to the brain, legalizing marijuana will not result in more automobile accidents, legalization will not result in more people using pot) there is a counterargument backed up by independent, empirical data, real-world experience, and just plain old logic.
However, one thing perhaps we can all agree on is that legalizing marijuana doesn’t change the fact that people under the influence of the drug experience certain physiological effects. Of course! People use marijuana because of the way it makes them feel, which presumably is different than the way they normally feel. But those physiological effects can often be very negative.
According to the Foundation for a Drug Free World, “The immediate effects of taking marijuana include rapid heartbeat, disorientation, lack of physical coordination, often followed by depression or sleepiness. Some users suffer panic attacks or anxiety. But the problem does not end there. According to scientific studies, the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, remains in the body for weeks or longer.”
If THC stays in the body for weeks or longer, then it is easy to see how the so-called effects of marijuana use can last for many hours or even days. As such, it stands to reason that a user can remain under the influence of marijuana for an extended period of time after the drug is initially consumed. Knowing this, should lead employers to question whether they can simply look the other way and blindly hire people who are occasional marijuana users let alone regular users. They should question whether its’ wise to eliminate marijuana from their drug test panel completely. Yet, some employers are questioning their right to test for marijuana.
In a 2015 survey of drug testing providers conducted by the Current Consulting Group, 67.1% indicated that they believe employers are “confused and worried” about how to deal with marijuana in the workplace. Further, 12.3% said that some employers believe it is illegal to test for marijuana and 19.1% said some employers believe it is illegal to terminate the employment of someone who tests positive for pot. Neither is true of course. It is legal in all 50 states to drug test for marijuana. Also, it is within the rights of employers to bring adverse employment action against someone who tests positive under most conditions, although restrictions may apply in some states that have legalized marijuana.
Perhaps the most distressing statistic from the survey was the fact that only 69.8% of the drug testing providers said they “actively encourage [their] clients to continue to test for marijuana.” This begs the question why 30% do not encourage clients to test for marijuana? Are there drug testing providers who do not understand the dangers associated with having employees at work under the influence of drugs? Or who are not sure if it’s legal to test marijuana or terminate a person who tests positive? Hopefully not, but it’s possible that some people, employers as well as drug testing providers, are only seeing one side of the argument regarding legalizing marijuana. After all, there is a ton of information out there on why marijuana should be legalized compared to the amount of information countering the pro-legalization view.
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