Health Care

Cannabis and Drug Testing Policies: A Very Sensitive Subject


Have you ever considered raising the subject of cannabis consumption and drug testing policies with your employer? Good luck with that. It is very difficult to have such discussions because the subject is a very sensitive one. But the discussion is going to have to be had at some point. Cannabis is now legal in thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia. Drug testing policies may have to be modified accordingly.

  A Matter of Rights

The dividing line in any discussion between parties opposed over the cannabis issue is this: whose rights should prevail? On the one hand, private employers maintain the right to run their businesses as they see fit. On the other hand are consumers who insist that state law gives them right to consume cannabis.

Both are correct in terms of their legal rights. But when the legal rights of two parties conflict, the rights of one have to be subservient to those of the other. Figuring out which is which can seem like an impossible task at times.

 Medical Cannabis and Workplace Testing

Disagreements over cannabis and drug testing policies may be easier to iron out in states like Utah, where only medical consumption is allowed. Maintaining the illegality of recreational use reduces the debate to one of reasonable medical accommodations.

According to the folks at Beehive Farmacy, a Utah cannabis pharmacy provider with locations in Brigham City and Salt Lake City, state lawmakers recently adopted a bill that requires government employers to treat medical cannabis as they would any other prescription drug. That means they cannot arbitrarily discriminate against employees who legally use medical cannabis.

Utah still allows private businesses to deal with medical cannabis as they see fit. But given the new law applied to public employers, it is now easier to make the case that private employers should have to offer reasonable accommodations as well.

 Recreational Cannabis Is Different

Though not impossible, it’s more difficult to argue in favor of worker’s rights when you’re talking about recreational cannabis. Using cannabis recreationally is a personal choice that people do not have to make. They can choose to not use the drug just as easily as choosing to use it.

If we give employers the right to test for other drugs that could potentially harm their businesses, there has to be a justifiable reason for taking cannabis off that list. It is not enough to merely cite the fact that THC can remain in a person’s system for days.

We also cannot deny that some states allow employers to discriminate against people who use perfectly legal substances, like tobacco for example. Back in 2016, one of Colorado’s largest healthcare systems joined a growing number of companies nationwide that decided to stop hiring smokers.

How ironic that cannabis proponents in Colorado are now begging state lawmakers to force a change in drug testing policies so that cannabis users are not discriminated against in the workplace. If such changes are made, will pot smokers be hired by the same companies that will not hire tobacco smokers?

 Ignoring an Underlying Issue

The very idea of trying to find a compromise between worker and employer rights in the cannabis realm engenders debates that seem to ignore an underlying issue. What is that issue? The recognition that there is something inherent to cannabis that causes such sharp differences of opinion. We need to figure out what that is before any meaningful resolutions are possible.

Meanwhile, it seems inevitable that drug testing policies will be addressed from a legal perspective at some point. How it will go is anyone’s else.