Despite the COVID-19 pandemic creating a stir in the workforce last year and putting many people out of jobs, one trend remained the same: a rising number of employees testing positive for marijuana. According to Quest Diagnostics, Inc., the amount of United States workers testing positive for marijuana through urine tests has increased. Out of the approximate seven million tests administered through Quest to determine the presence of marijuana in potential employees’ systems, 2.7% of the tests came back positive. This is an increase from 2019, which had results of 2.5% positivity, as well as 2016, which showed 2% positivity.
Under normal circumstances, a gradual increase annually would be expected. However, considering the workforce was shaken up in 2020, it would have made more sense for the positive marijuana results to have been shifted more dramatically, too. Although state and federal numbers indicate an increase in drug overdoses and abuse, Quest Diagnostics representatives state that that increase is not depicted in their data because many drug abuse victims likely did not have to undergo workplace drug testing.
Drug tests can happen at random in the workplace, or if there is actual suspicion of drug use. Potential candidates for companies in the United States often have to undergo drug tests prior to employment, which includes marijuana in addition to harder drugs. More and more companies, however, are abandoning the involvement of testing for marijuana in their drug testing routine.
As more states are in the throes of legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana, positive marijuana tests are naturally climbing. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, so far seventeen states have passed some sort of legalization measures. Most recently, this includes Arizona, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey. As the marijuana legalization process treks on throughout the United States, more and more employers are changing their marijuana testing protocols and resetting the culture of drug testing.
Many companies have stopped factoring positive marijuana test results into their hiring decisions. With the increasing legalization of marijuana in more states, there is more leniency toward marijuana than other drugs. Using positive marijuana test results as a reason to not hire someone, or fire an existing employee, is seen as grounds for a lawsuit in states where it is legal.
Moreover, some employees are stopping marijuana testing to provide an incentive for potential employees. A job where drug tests don’t include marijuana as part of the scanning process may seem more desirable to prospective employees who do consume marijuana, whether recreationally or medicinally. For example, the Hospitality Ventures Management Group (which runs mainly Marriott and Hilton-branded hotels) has stopped screening for marijuana detection nationwide, which makes it out to be a more competitive employer. Taste of Texas restaurant co-owner Edd Hendee says, “Drug testing does not make or break your ability to find good people.” He maintains the stance that a prospective employee testing positive or negative for marijuana is not an indicator of what kind of employee someone will be.
The narrative that marijuana is a gateway drug consumed problematically has shifted in the past few years. As more and more states are legalizing cannabis usage, the stigma around marijuana consumption is changing for the better. One argument in support of marijuana usage theorizes that alcohol consumption is worse than marijuana in basically every aspect. It’s true that marijuana consumption is not entirely without risk or harm. After all, what is? However, studies have shown that while alcohol is the legal and normalized substance, it is actually more dangerous and harmful than marijuana. Plus, even though marijuana can be used recreationally as a way to relax or friends or by yourself, it also has additional medicinal benefits that alcohol doesn’t.
Alcohol has certain negative effects on consumers that marijuana does not. For example, many people have died from alcohol use. Of course, your average cocktail or beer here doesn’t cause death by alcohol. But alcohol, by nature, has certain addictive qualities that can lead to alcohol abuse. In turn, alcohol abuse can lead to life-threatening issues, such as liver failure or various cancers. So yes, it is most certainly possible to drink yourself to death. In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes. Yet, there have been no reported fatal marijuana overdoses.
A common myth regarding marijuana is that it causes brain damage and kills brain cells. Research has proved that to be incorrect, however. An increasing number of studies has shown that marijuana actually contains some neuroprotective properties, which means that it actually works to preserve the brain rather than harm it. Furthermore, the government previously insisted that marijuana use led to an increased risk of neck and head cancers, but it proved to a faulty claim that was debunked in a 2009 study.
Speaking of diseases, it is worth noting that alcohol use can lead to the development of cancer. At this point, it’s no secret that alcohol abuse is linked to a number of different cancers, including cancers of the colon, stomach, esophagus, lungs, liver, pancreas, and prostate. Marijuana, on the other hand, has not been conclusively connected to any kind of cancer. Deborah Korenstein, chief of the General Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, says, “The unfortunate short answer is that we just don’t really know that much. There were problems with almost all of them that really limited our ability to draw conclusions.” She and her colleagues examined a myriad of scientific literature to determine if marijuana consumption can be linked to cancer. They were unable to draw a conclusion.
It’s safe to say that excessive alcohol use can lead to aggressive, hostile behavior by intoxicated individuals. Meanwhile marijuana generally has the opposite effect. The Journal of Addictive Behaviorspublished an article that states “alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship.” The article also stated that “cannabis reduces the likelihood of violence during intoxication.” The chemicals associated with each substance simply lead to different types of behavior.
The United States has varying stances on the topic of marijuana throughout the country. Much like all politics, cannabis legalization is not a mere black or white issue. Some states are still criminalizing individuals for marijuana possession, while others have already legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana. Many states are still somewhere in the middle. Steps may have been taken to legalize cannabis usage, but it’s a long, complicated process that simply doesn’t happen overnight. The whole process from A to Z can take years. After all, good things take time, right? So what is marijuana “decriminalization,” and how does it differ from full legalization?
On Tuesday, May 4th, 2021, the Louisiana House of Representatives took a pretty important step toward the end goal of marijuana legalization. Louisiana currently has some strict laws prohibiting cannabis, which also include fines and potential jail time if individuals are caught with it. However, Louisiana’s latest legislative session approved a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession as long as it’s a half-ounce or less. Prior to passing this bill (House Bill 652 authored by state Rep. Cedric B. Glover [D – Shreveport]), individuals caught with marijuana would be criminalized, meaning they would have to pay fines at the very minimum, but also likely face jail time.
What does criminalization (or decriminalization) of marijuana mean exactly? In the state of Louisiana, individuals possessing marijuana prior to House Bill 652 could have been facing criminal charges. If they were caught with half an ounce of marijuana (roughly 14 grams), they would be looking at a $300 fine and/or 15 days in jail on the first offense. Second and third offenses would invoke more serious penalties, such as heftier fines and increased jail time.
House Bill 652 has proposed the decriminalization of marijuana. So where does that leave Louisiana? Decriminalizing marijuana basically means that the possibility of jail time is eliminated, as long as the possessed marijuana is less than a certain amount (half an ounce, in this case). How the marijuana quantity is handled varies by state. For example, in 2019 North Dakota made the maximum penalty for marijuana possession a $1,000 fine for a half-ounce. Instead of getting arrested, the individual in question would be facing a summons instead. While Louisiana and other states have a lot of work ahead of them for marijuana legalization, the vital first step is decriminalizing cannabis.
While Louisiana’s new bill is on the right track toward marijuana legalization, it’s still got a ways to go. Decriminalizing marijuana possession and consumption is simply taking away the option of going to jail. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use (a step ahead of medicinal use) generally means that the state would create a legal, private market for selling marijuana. This allows businesses to grow it and/or sell it for individuals over 21. The marijuana industry would be a part of the state’s economy, bringing in millions of dollars in business revenue.
According to Medical News Today, chronic pain affects more people than heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined in 2021. It is the most prevalent cause of disability for people in the United States. Chronic pain is persistent discomfort or pain that lasts for years, and typically stems from traumatic injuries or damaged nerves. It can start with what appears to be just a minor injury, but persevere and end up lasting years. Even if the underlying source is treated, chronic pain itself may still persist. If you are one of the millions of people in the U.S. currently living with chronic pain, you may have turned to medical marijuana for relief.
Cannabis, otherwise known as marijuana, is widely used among those with chronic pain for assistance with discomfort. Cannabis falls somewhere between a pharmaceutical and alternative type of medicine, as well as sitting in the grey zone when it comes to its legality (or lack of). Assuming the patient lives in a state where medicinal marijuana has been legalized, arguably the most important factor to proceed is obtaining cannabis from a safe, legally approved location.
First, a patient must obtain a recommendation from a physician. It’s worth noting that a physician may only authorize recommendationsfor marijuana, not prescriptions like they would for typical pharmaceutical medicine. This is because while marijuana may be legal in some states, it is still illegal at the federal level. Therefore, patients receive recommendations instead. State-approved, legal marijuana dispensaries or stores have a wide range of cannabis products, some of which are especially known to help with chronic pain.
The three types of marijuana plants include cannabis indica, cannabis sativa, and hybrids. As the name implies, hybrids are a combination of the two strains. Because there is limited research done on the impact of specific marijuana strains for chronic pain, recommendations based on specific strains have not been medically proven. However, according to a survey highlighted in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published in 2014, participants preferred indica strains for pain management, relaxation, and sleep. In contrast, sativa strains would be used for energy boosts and mood improvements. Participants also reported that the indica strain of cannabis relieved non-migraine headaches, neuropathy, spasticity, and joint pain.
Numerous studies have examined either parts of or the entire marijuana plant in recent years. What is it exactly about cannabis that relieves patients with chronic pain? Studies that have only investigated specific parts of the plant, such as cannabidiol oil (otherwise known as CBD oil), only examine the effects of that specific ingredient. Other studies that look at the marijuana plant has a whole have to consider several moving parts. When the whole plant is used to have more of an effect, it is known as an “entourage effect.”
While smoking marijuana is the most common way to consume cannabis for chronic pain relief, there are alternatives for patients who would rather not smoke it. Different variants of marijuana include oils, edibles, topicals, and sublingual cannabis, which is putting a tablet under the tongue to help with quicker absorption.
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.