Cannabis in the workplace: Businesses hiring pot smokers more than ever

With the unemployment rate at 4.1%, businesses in the US are still craving for more workers. They are, however, limited with the Drug-Free Workplace Act forbidding them to employ those that test positive for marijuana.

Fortunately, companies across the United States are dropping marijuana from the list of illicit substances which, up until lately, would have made users of the drug unemployable.

This trend is currently big in 9 states that legalized cannabis completely, but is also starting to develop in the 20 states that legalized medical marijuana as well.

Here’s what the map looks like at the moment, when it comes down to specifics of cannabis legality by state:

medical marijuana states

It appears that excluding cannabis users from the available workforce is simply too big of a hit for the American economy since some form of cannabis appears to be legal in most places around the US.

Courts telling a different story

In 2017, companies that rescinded job offers or fired workers because of positive tests for cannabis have lost law suites in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and even Rhode Island.

This is a major victory for cannabis advocates, as up until the year before that, courts have always ruled in favor of the employers and their rights to choose who they hire or let go.

This change in testing policy might not be a surprise for everyone, as the Labor Secretary Acosta suggested at a congressional hearing last month, in which he urges employers to take a “step back” on drug testing.

“We have all these Americans that are looking to work,” Acosta said. “Are we aligning our drug testing policies with what’s right for the workforce?”

This situation is starting to look a lot like the US Military‘s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding homosexuals that was implemented back in the ’90s.

Many companies have already dropped marijuana from their drug tests, but haven’t made it official and haven’t published any statements related to drug tests.

Policies regarding employees that test positive on marijuana are still different from state to state, meaning that companies in Colorado can fire workers that test positive, while employers in Maine are not allowed to do so.

However, even though employers in Colorado have that option in hand, we see very little to no people getting fired after testing positive for marijuana.

In Colorado, 10% of employers that screen for drugs had dropped marijuana from the banned substances list as of 2016, and people usually don’t get fired for testing positive because there is an abundance of jobs to apply for if you do get fired.

“It’s because unemployment is virtually non-existent” in Colorado, said Curtis Graves, a lawyer at the Denver Employers Council. “People cannot afford to take a hard line against off-duty marijuana usage if they want to hire.”

That’s particularly true the closer you get to the resort areas, where most places are staffed with young workers that can lose their jobs and walk across the street and get another one.

The situation is no different in Michigan, where employers struggle to find employees in an area with less than 3% unemployment.

Express Employment, a staffing agency from Grand Rapids is one of the agencies that still screen for marijuana, but they also reported that their clients are getting progressively less worried about the positive tests.

According to their words, employers are getting desperate for the fresh workforce.

“We have had companies say to us, ‘We don’t worry about that as much as we used to,’” Express Employment official said. “We say, ‘OK, well, we are still following our standards.’ ”

It seems that, in the near future, testing for marijuana will become less and less used as a metric whether a possible employee is a viable prospect for the job, and more so a thing of the past.

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