Friday, September 19, 2014

Drug Testing Policies aren't changing

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in two states and the legalization of medical marijuana permitted now in 23 states, drug testing policies are changing.  Even though the acceptance of weed is now at over 50% of Americans agreeing with the use of medical and recreational marijuana, it is still taboo in the workplace to talk about it.  It is common to see the “Drug-free Zone” or “Drug-free Workplace” in employee handbooks.  Even in Colorado where there are marijuana stores scattered throughout the states, there are still job postings where “marijuana use unacceptable” and “drug-free company” at the bottom of the listings.

Brandon Coats was paralyzed in a car crash when he was 16.  Since 2009, he has used medical marijuana to relieve painful joint spasms.  Coats said he smoked at night before bed to sleep the whole night without waking up in pain.  He was employed by Dish Network and he answered customer phone calls.  He was asked to take a drug test and Coats knew he was going to fail.  Coats did fail his test and was promptly fired the next day despite having a medical marijuana card.  Coats pointed out that a drug free zone and an ‘at will’ state means that a company can fire you if you fail a drug test.

"On September 30th, Coats will take his argument before the Colorado Supreme court in a lawsuit challenging his 2010 firing.  For years, courts in Colorado  and across the country have ruled against marijuana users, saying that companies have the right to create their own drug policies.  But legal experts say that if Mr. Coats prevails -- he lost 2-1 in an appellate ruling -- his case could transform how businesses must treat marijuana users. 

"The result is a clash between a culture that increasingly accepts marijuana and companies that will fire employees who use it” – The New York Times

Alaska, Vermont, California, New Hampshire, Oregon, Massachusetts, and New York are among the next states that are pushing towards the legalization of recreational marijuana.  Is it hopeful to think that when recreational marijuana is legalized in a few more states that drug testing policies will change?  Maybe, but all of the current evidence points out that drug policies will get stricter before they become looser.  With the cost of drug testing rising, there is money in the industry and having strong anti-drug policies in the workplace are lucrative to the drug testing field.

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