Drug Testing for Jobs Discriminates Against Cannabis Users

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The rapid shift in cultural attitudes surrounding cannabis has unquestionably benefited numerous people in our society. Legalization, decriminalization, criminal justice reform, and greater social awareness about the medical benefits of cannabis have all combined to reduce the stigma associated with cannabis.

However, while progress in legal and cultural arenas has been promising, progress in other areas, such as employment, has been nothing if not disappointing. One need only look at the existing policies regarding drug testing to see how decades of prohibition continue to impact those who use cannabis negatively.

Pre-employment drug screening is incredibly common. More than half of all employers require it. It is also ridiculously discriminatory. Cannabis is effectively the only drug that stays in the human body for a noteworthy amount of time. Most other drugs that companies would want to test for our water soluble and leave the human body within a few days.

Someone could do meth or cocaine on a Friday night and very likely pass a drug test the upcoming Monday. On the other hand, people who use cannabis will test positive even when clearly not under the influence. In fact, drug tests can detect cannabinoids and their metabolites in the human body for up to 90 days or even longer in some cases after the last instance of use. That means that pre-employment drug screening disproportionately impacts cannabis users and prevents them from securing good jobs.

While it would obviously be dangerous for someone to operate heavy machinery under the influence of any substance, many jobs that require drug testing are not in manufacturing. People who work cash registers or handle files in offices also face the scrutiny of a drug test. Individuals in states with medical programs and legalization have begun to push back against the discrimination that comes with pre-employment drug screening.

Many employers refuse to recognize medical cannabis cards or prescriptions in situations where employees fail a test. They might not behave the same way toward employees who had valid prescriptions for opioid painkillers.

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that our society still has a long way to go. It will likely be years before federal drug policy changes to the point where those victimized by drug testing can finally push back against the practice.

For previousLadybudarticles about drug testing, click here.

Photo Credit: Image by Thomas Quine via Flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0