To address labor shortage, it seems that more and more companies are excluding marijuana from drug test requirements when it comes to hiring new employees.
For at least 30 years, cannabis testing has been a part of the hiring process for large American employers. However, with more and more states legalizing cannabis — whether for medical or for recreational uses — marijuana testing is now disqualifying more potential workers at a time when it has become more challenging to fill jobs.
What’s more, in the past year alone, medical cannabis users in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts have filed and won lawsuits against employers that fired them or that rescinded job offers because they tested positive for the drug. It can be noted that before these cases, courts always ruled in an employer’s favor.
This is why many companies have decided to ditch cannabis testing from their requirements.
It is still in its early stages, but this shift away from cannabis testing is likely to accelerate and spread to more companies.
At a congressional hearing in April, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta suggested that employers should step back on drug testing.
According to Acosta, there are lots of Americans looking for work. He explained that the labor department is aligning its drug testing policies with whatever is right for the workforce.
As of now, there is no definitive data regarding the exact number of companies conducting drug tests. However, in a survey conductedd by the Society of Human Resources Management, it was found that 57% companies do so.
There is also no recent data relating to how many companies have dropped cannabis from its mandatory drug testing. But in interviews with hiring executives, as well as with agencies helping employers fill jobs, have indicated that ditching marijuana testing is one of the steps that more companies are taking in order to expand their pool of applicants and candidates who will fill a near-record level of job openings.
Most employers that have already decided to make do without the marijuana tests continue to screen for hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, and opiates.
According to New Hampshire employment lawyer James Reidy, companies are now thinking a bit harder about the types of jobs that really do require cannabis tests. For instance, when it comes to a manufacturing worker who is not driving a forklift or who is not operating industrial machinery, a marijuana test may be deemed unnecessary.
Reidy said that because employers are aware of the thin labor pool, they are asking themselves whether it is wise to still test and exclude a growing group of people, or whether they can just assume some risks provided that workers are not impaired at work.
Many companies, however, are still reluctant to publicly acknowledge that they have dropped cannabis testing.
This, Reidy said, is the new don’t-ask-don’t-tell rule.
In Colorado and most other states that have legalized cannabis, businesses can, at their discretion, fire employees who test positive for the drug. Maine, on the other hand, became the first legalized state to bar employers from refusing to hire applicants or from firing employees just because they use cannabis outside of work.
Dropping cannabis testing is more common among companies that are based in the nine states where recreational cannabis legal. Meanwhile, 20 other states allow the use of cannabis among their workers as long as it is for medical purposes.
It is expected that companies belonging to more labor-intensive industries, such as hotels, home health care providers, and those with warehouses and assembly jobs, are the ones most likely to drop weed testing.
On the other hand, businesses that have contracts with the government or those that belong to regulated industries, such as air travel and transportation, as well as businesses with safety concerns involving machinery, are the ones that continue cannabis tests.