How Legalized Cannabis Could Cause Marijuana Drug Testing to Evolve

legalized cannabis effect marijuana drug testing

Cannabis is becoming legal in more states as time goes on. However, drug testing procedures haven't quite caught up with reality just yet.

The increased amount of places where it's perfectly legal for an adult to enjoy a spliff has created a case for changing the view of THC.

If you've been wondering how the altered legal landscape might transfer to cannabis, you're in the right place. Read on and we'll explore the future of marijuana drug testing and how employers are currently adapting.


Why New Testing Methodology?

The biggest problem with cannabis legalization revolves around drug testing for employers.

Marijuana's active ingredient, THC, stays in the body for a considerable period of time. Daily users can expect to test positive for a month after their last smoke session during a standard urine test.

For rehab programs and when the plant was entirely illegal, it made sense to rely on urine testing.

However, in states where the drug is legal, it's up to the employer to pick and choose their method.

While some may ignore THC positives in a standard test, there are instances where it's necessary to know if a person was stoned.

Accidents requiring incident reports at work, for instance, inevitably require a drug test. Since THC stays in a person's system for so long an individual who smoked a joint on Friday and slipped up on Monday could potentially be held liable even though they weren't intoxicated at the time.

The broader ramifications in drug testing are unique to cannabis. Hard drugs like heroin only last for two to three days in urine and are more dangerous and completely illegal across the board.


Broken Legality and Changing Circumstances

Unfortunately, the shifting legality of cannabis has real-world results which can be disastrous for the individual.

The biggest problem we're facing with current testing methods is that there's no reliable test for THC impairment. Even saliva tests can go back two days.

With current testing methods, offenses like intoxicated driving can be impossible to prove one way or the other. Lacking a reliable method of proving intoxication is troubling. At this time all a positive test means is that someone has probably smoked within the last thirty days.

The truth is that even in cases where a simple test would suffice to fire someone or charge them with a crime, there are plenty of clever ways to get around a urine test, whether with a whizzinator or even a less intensive device.


Changing Company Cultures

Many companies have held to their previous strict standards for cannabis testing. Yet there seems to be a growing trend of permissiveness.

How each company adapts is up to them. Currently, cannabis is still illegal on the Federal level which means that there are no protections in place for those who choose to use the plant.

This has resulted in confusion for employers as they find more and more candidates are now testing positive for THC.

Some companies, albeit not many, have dropped drug testing entirely or become more permissive about THC.

Others won't eliminate a new candidate from consideration if they agree to test clean in a few months from the date of being hired.

Random drug tests are also falling out of favor with many companies. In some cases, they're eliminated entirely while in others they've been made much less frequent.

Overarching Federal law still considers it a Schedule I drug as well, leading to complications for anyone who finds themselves working for the government.

Even medical usage is ill-defined, with heavily pro-cannabis states like California still leaving the decision to fire or not entirely up to the employer if the employee is licensed for medical cannabis.

The truth is that we're still in the early days of legalization. Many companies are having to reconsider many of their drug testing policies for cannabis users.

It's doubtful that being stoned on the job is going to be allowed anytime soon. However, the shifting legality of marijuana makes it a hot button issue for those doing the hiring and firing.

Changes are going to have to be made by anyone looking to hire people and perform a drug screen. We're caught in the middle of a legal swamp but the fact remains that positive tests are more common than they have been in over a decade.


Possible New Methods of Marijuana Drug Testing

The metabolite tested for in a standard urine screening is actually inactive. That is to say that a person who tests positive, even at high levels, isn't necessarily intoxicated.

Unfortunately for some, it also makes it worthless as a measure of impairment.

The only other common recreational drug legal for use in the US is alcohol. Because of the way alcohol metabolizes it was easy to determine a base level of intoxication and consider anyone over it intoxicated.

The fact is that cannabis is taken in a wide variety of ways, however, and affects each person differently. Even blood draws meant to detect only the levels of THC, as opposed to inactive metabolites, are inconclusive.

Efforts are underway to create something like a breathalyzer for detecting THC levels. Unfortunately, the best-known technology is rapidly looking like it's vaporware. For the time being, many judgment calls will have to be made on the part of authorities and employers everywhere.


Grey Areas and Cannabis Culture

The truth is that our current methods of marijuana drug testing simply aren't up to par when it comes to knowing if a person is impaired. There are too many variables in place with the drug itself, how it metabolizes, and how different states and organizations react.

What's known is that legalization is here to stay. For those in the field, it's causing headaches. Sooner or later there will have to be a consensus on what makes up marijuana-induced impairment in the workplace.

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