Pre-employment drug screening for marijuana has been prevalent in the American workplace for decades, but is it time for this procedure to end? In Philadelphia, members of the City Council certainly seem to think so. With a vote of 15 to 1 in favor of passing the measure (Bill No. 200625), members of the Council have decided that cannabis screening is an outdated process and not necessary in today’s day and age. Philadelphia’s mayor, Jim Kenney, is scheduled to sign the bill into law. It will become effective on January 1, 2022.
The named bill “prohibits employers from requiring prospective employees to undergo testing for the presence of marijuana as a condition of employment, under certain terms and conditions.” However, some prospective employees will be exempt from this bill and will still have to undergo drug screening for marijuana. Potential employees that will still be required to take a drug test include law enforcement officers, some healthcare workers, and/or those that supervise children or are involved with children in other capacities. Other prospective employees exempt from the new bill are those that are required to be tested under federal drug testing rules, which outweigh the state’s stance.
The deputy director of NORML, an organization dedicated to reforming marijuana laws, testified in favor of the bill at a hearing before the vote. “There’s no evidence to support the claim that those who consume cannabis in the privacy of their own home away from the job pose a unique workforce safety threat or risk,” he stated. With more and more states throughout the nation making moves to legalize marijuana, the question of cannabis drug screening is being raised over and over.
People argue that if recreational and/or medicinal marijuana is legalized, cannabis screenings should not be required seeing as how what employees choose to do in their time away from work should not matter. A study published in the Occupational Medicine journal shows that there is no identifiable “…association between past-year cannabis use and work-related injury,” which further proves the Philadelphia bill’s point.
Other states, such as California, are also in the process of creating bills that would ban most pre-employment drug tests for marijuana. Again, some professions are exempt in this bill too, such as those that fall into federal laws. So what is the ultimate goal here? These bills are essentially making it unlawful not to hire someone based on cannabis traces found in urine or hair tests.
Proponents of these bills also argue that the urine tests used for cannabis screening are only showing whether an individual has consumed marijuana in the past, but not whether they have actively interacted with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is known as marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient. Marijuana is comprised of both THC and CBD (cannabidiol), the latter of which does not contribute to altering a person’s state of mind.
Did you know? 40% of Americans now live in a state where marijuana is legal for adults, causing the pressure to grow for those states that have still not legalized it. According to a national poll completed at Quinnipiac University, two-thirds of Americans are in favor of recreational legalization throughout the country. With pressure mounting, several more states could still legalize medical and/or recreational marijuana before the legislative periods are finished for this year.
Taking a look at the East Coast, New Jersey and New York have approved recreational marijuana programs (which are now expected to bring in $4 billion in annual sales within the first few years of commencing). This shines the spotlight on other East Coast states that have yet to legalize recreational or medical marijuana, such as Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Other states that have legalized adult use of marijuana this year include New Mexico and Virginia. The two states are expected to generate a combined $2 billion in annual revenue within 5-6 years after sales are allowed to proceed.
Despite some states having already passed legislation which approves the use of medical and/or recreational marijuana for all adults, other states are still dwindling behind. With political dynamics constantly changing, there is a pattern of uncertainty for yet other states, such as Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. While Connecticut seemed promising just a few months ago in moving forward with legislation, according to experts it now seems less likely to do so. This is a trend for numerous states, with marijuana legalization seeming likely for a while and then regressing back to uncertainty.
There is a lot of grey area in the cannabis industry, particularly regarding its degree of legality in certain states. Some states such as California, Colorado, and New York have completely legalized adult use of marijuana, while other states such as Texas are somewhere in the middle. While Texas does have a limited marijuana program, it is not considered a state where medical marijuana (MMJ) is completely approved.
Karen O’Keefe, state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project, says that the more states proceed forward with marijuana legalization, the more laggard other states seem who have yet to introduce legislation for legalization. According to O’Keefe, cannabis dispensaries and stores near state borders have their parking lots filled with cars from other bordering states who have yet to legalize marijuana.
According to the 2021 Marijuana Business Factbook, there are 38 states and Washington D.C. who have some kind of medical marijuana program in place. Only about 16 states have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults over 21, however. Medical marijuana legalization efforts are now focused more on conservative red states, such as Alabama. Currently, Alabama appears to be the most likely state to legalize MMJ at this point in time. South Carolina, Kansas, and Nebraska still seem unlikely. North Carolina, however, has become a “maybe” when the state’s senate committee submitted a legalization bill.