In 2015, an employee named Joseph B. Cobb III, located in Cumberland County, New Jersey was fired for testing positive for marijuana during a random drug testing. They used a ‘breach in company policy’ as the excuse.
It was confirmed that not only was he under the influence during the time of the testing, his usage was medicinal, having Marfen Syndrome and he contained a valid medical marijuana card. He chose cannabis over opiates and was fired for his decision to be a participating citizen of the community. Additionally, because of his decision, he was asked to go to rehab. His lawsuit is still pending.
As stated in my Marijuana Does Not Mean Unemployable piece, even with the progression we’ve made with cannabis, employees who enjoy the benefits are still being punished. Whether it’s the pre-screening or random drug testing during employment, qualified candidates are getting the cold shoulder.
Well, it’s looking like employers are seeing the repercussions in their actions. It seems that businesses, especially in states where marijuana is legal, in some ways are seeing hiring problems big enough to be brought to the media’s attention.
Pre-employment drug testing usually includes amphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, opiates and phencyclidine. If you noticed, one drug stands out of the rest and it’s not because of its colors.
Not only has marijuana been proven to be incomparable to the others when it comes to the dangers, an employee could get completely wasted using meth on Saturday and be ready to pass a urine test on Wednesday. Unfortunately, anyone using marijuana, whether medically or recreationally, fears as much as 30 days of positive testing once used.
This issue became nationally relevant a few years ago when a Supreme Court judge dismissed a case in Colorado where they found that Dish Network had a right to discipline an employee if they tested positive. The employee in question, Brandon Coats, was authorized to use marijuana medicinally so the court scapegoated the federal law. These decisions, in turn, have pushed lawyers to ask legislatures to create protections as they foresaw issues with employment in the future.
Neither cases were able to prove the employees’ inability or slacking quality of work. Now here we are.
Even though federal law leaves it up to state government, with the discrepancies between state and federal laws when it comes to marijuana, it’s hard to see how this hasn’t caused a problem earlier.
Colorado Public Radio had a chance to interview Ricardo Baca, a former Editor of the Denver Post, who had first-hand experience to the difficulties that began after marijuana was legalized in Colorado. It came to a point where he was counseling new hires on how to pass a drug test because they had some many qualified applicants come through their organization.
Baca would be approached by other editors requesting assistance to help hire a qualified candidate. “I have this new hire. She’s really great. But she lives in Seattle. And she consumes regularly. And she is not going to pass this drug test. And so can you help us out?” They would ask him.
More importantly, in today’s market, employees finally have an upper hand. Businesses in areas like Colorado really don’t have room to tighten their grips. With a tight labor market of 2.6% and 1 in 7 people using marijuana, they really can’t shut the door on qualified people merely because they need or enjoy cannabis.
The good news is some businesses are finally realizing they are losing qualified employees and companies such as Excel Roofing will no longer disqualify candidates for positive marijuana results.
We are starting to see companies color some of their drug policies gray. Colorado, California, and Oregon have seen a declining number of businesses going pre-employment drug testing. A survey conducted by Mountain State Employers found that 3% of businesses have removed their drug policies.
Dealing with many businesses, Select Staffing alleges that businesses do fear losing qualified employees merely because they used something that has been deemed safe in all areas other than federal law. Oregon recently passed a Senate Bill 30, which bars any state businesses from firing employees for off-hours marijuana use.
We can’t ignore that drug testing is important. It provides safety especially for jobs with hazardous or risky conditions. The use of dangerous drugs can lead to harm which may lead to lawsuits for those deserving and those seeking opportunity. Some companies even claim to want to help drug users. But people need to acknowledge that marijuana has no business even being on the list to begin with.
It’s true. Qualified people use cannabis.