Legalization of marijuana puts pre-employment drug test policies in tough spot

employers are finding themselves in a tough spot. Especially if they have policies in place that require applicants to pass a pre-employment drug test before an offer is extended. Obviously, employers want to know that the people they hire are going to be good workers and that they will not put other employees — or the company — at risk for safety issues. Therefore, many companies have previously chosen to conduct a pre-employment drug test on potential candidates to ensure the applicant is not one of the 23.9 million Americans that are drug users. But when states like Colorado have legalized marijuana — or as states such as California are considering legislation that would legalize the drug — can employers choose not to employ a candidate who uses a completely legal substance off the clock? After marijuana was legalized in Colorado, the Mountain State Employers Council created guidelines to help the state’s employers with their drug-testing policies. Their guidelines state that employees cannot be punished for legal off-duty activities, but that employers can still conduct a pre-employment drug test on applicants (and refuse to hire legal drug users) without worry of discrimination. Meanwhile, some employers prefer not to conduct drug tests at all, because the legalization of cannabis creates a gray area that’s akin to the space between a rock and a hard place: should it be treated as alcohol, fine in moderation? Or should its use be considered equivalent to an illegal substance? And how does marijuana usage fall in regard to zero-tolerance policies? Traditional drug tests screen for nine different types of substances, including opiates, barbiturates, amphetamines, and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Some expect that, as marijuana usage becomes legal in more states, a standard pre-employment drug test will need to be changed to only test for harder substances. Others are likely to follow in Colorado’s footsteps, and revise their existing drug-testing policies to account for what the company will and will not allow in regard to hiring legal drug users.]]>

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