Facing an Employer Drug Screening as a Cannabis User

Legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational use is not a simple matter of writing a one-line law and signing it. Like any other type of legislation, cannabis legalization laws influence a lot of other things, both directly and indirectly. Take employer drug screening for example. What does a legal cannabis user do when applying for a job that requires a drug test?

The internet is rife with suggestions on how to beat drug tests. Most of them do not work. And those that do are sketchy, at best. This creates a conundrum for cannabis users who sincerely want to work. They either have to take jobs that do not require drug tests or find some way around the possibility of a drug test coming up positive.

  1. Cannabis’ Legal Status

To be clear, drug tests designed to identify cannabis use look specifically for THC. Marijuana users have trace amounts of THC in their systems for a period of time following their last use. How long that time is depends on a number of factors:

  • Delivery method
  • THC volume
  • Frequency of use
  • Weight, metabolism, etc.

It should also be noted that any industries regulated by federal law are subject to the federal ban on marijuana. Interstate trucking is the perfect example. It is regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, the DOT will not allow marijuana users to drive interstate trucks. Truck drivers cannot use medical cannabis, either.

An unemployed truck driver looking to land a new position has to undergo a mandatory drug test. Even if they pass that test, federal law requires multiple random drug tests throughout the year. A single positive test is enough to cost a driver their job.

  1. Public vs. Private Employers

Where this gets really tricky is in the differences between public and private employers. Those differences are rooted in the fact that states address cannabis in different ways. Some states, like Colorado and California, have legalized cannabis for both medical and recreational use. Other states, like Utah, allow only medical use. Then there are those twelve hold-out states that do not allow either.

Utah lawmakers recently passed a bill requiring public sector employers to treat medical cannabis just like any other prescription medication. It boils down to this: as long as medical cannabis does not prevent an employee from performing their job safely and up to standards, an employer cannot discriminate based on cannabis consumption.

The operators of the Utahmarijuana.org website say the legislation was written in direct response to a firefighter who was at risk of losing his job after he obtained a medical cannabis card. He is now protected under the law. As long as he does not use on the job, and his cannabis consumption does not affect work performance, he can continue to take his medications without fear of repercussions.

It should be noted that Utah regulations still allow private employers to develop and enforce their drug testing policies. This means that a private employer in the Beehive State can still terminate employees who test positive for cannabis.

  1. A Mixed Bag

At this point, cannabis users facing employer drug screenings are looking at a mixed bag of regulations. The only way to know for sure what is allowed by law is to check state regulations. In states where employers have the freedom to ban cannabis consumption among employees, cannabis users either have to stop using, find a way around drug testing, or look for a job where testing will not be an issue.


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