How has marijuana affected the United States workforce? 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.

Marijuana drug tests have not increased exponentially

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.

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More states are not factoring marijuana test results into hiring decisions

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.