Where are we going?
Every year, Quest Diagnostics, a leading provider of pre-employment, random, post-accident and reasonable cause workplace drug screening, issues its report on the trends of positive illegal drug test results in the workplace.
The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index reveals some alarming data. Illicit drug use in the American workforce, has reached the highest positivity rate in 12 years. Quest compiled this number from an analysis of more than ten million workforce drug test results.
4.2% of the workforce and covers the board spectrum of drugs – marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, etc. This is the highest rate since 2004.
Marijuana use continues to rise in safety-sensitive jobs that require drug testing under federal law—like truck drivers and pilots—as well as in the general workforce, according to the Quest study.
In Colorado and Washington, where recreational use of marijuana was legalized, the overall urine-test positivity rate surpassed the national average in 2016.
Since this rate is increasing across the board – not just in states where it’s legal, it strongly suggests a change in attitude more than a change in the laws, as the report states.
Our more lax attitude about illicit drug use in general, and marijuana use specifically, has had some significant and negative effects. A Denver, Colorado grocery supplier, McLane, employs forklift drivers who load heavy boxes into trucks. McLane employees need to stay alert and operate in a safe manner. But the company is having difficulty hiring since a large number of prospective employees fail the drug screen.
"Some weeks this year, 90 percent of applicants would test positive for something," ruling them out for the job, said Laura Stephens, a human resources manager for the company. "Finding people to fill jobs," Stephens said, "is really challenging." She stated that they saw a huge spike in positive tests after pot became legal. No small wonder.
Think about that for a beat – 90% of their applicants failed the drug screen.
As the Quest study notes, the positivity rate for cocaine use rose as well. This is the fourth consecutive year in the general U.S. workforce and for the second consecutive year for safety-sensitive jobs that require drug testing under federal law. Post-accident urine tests showed cocaine use twice as often as pre-employment drug tests.
Positive drug-test results for amphetamines—including methamphetamine—also continue to increase.
"Although methamphetamine positivity in urine testing declined between 2005 and 2008, the positivity rate plateaued between 2008 and 2012, and has increased steadily since," according to a Quest press release. Furthermore, between 2012 and 2016, the positivity rate climbed 64 percent in the general U.S. workforce.
While federal law still prohibits illicit drug use, and controls medical use of certain drugs, for truck and school bus drivers as examples, states legalizing marijuana often don’t adequately consider workplace issues around drug use.
Recently, however, Arkansas made some positive moves in this area concerning medical marijuana use and the workplace. Among the provisions now codified in Arkansas law are:
- Clarifying that certifying an individual as a qualifying patient "is not a medical prescription."
- An employer cannot be sued under the MCA if acting in accordance with a drug-free workplace program or policy.
- An employer cannot be sued under the MCA if acting on a "good faith belief" that marijuana was possessed or used on the premises of the employer or during the hours of employment. "Good faith belief" is separately defined and examples are provided.
- An employer cannot be sued under the MCA if acting on a "good faith belief" that the employee or applicant was "under the influence" of marijuana while on the premises of the employer or during the hours of employment. "Under the influence" is separately defined and examples are provided.
- An employer cannot be sued under the MCA if excluding or removing an employee or applicant from a "safety sensitive position" based on the employer's good faith belief that he or she was engaged in the current use of marijuana. Generally, a positive drug test for marijuana cannot provide the sole basis for a good faith belief.
- Individuals (e.g., managers, supervisors, etc.) cannot be individually sued under the MCA.