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published on November 8, 2021 - 1:23 PM
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In this applicant’s job market, one more barrier to employment seems to be disappearing.

As more states, counties and cities across the nation legalize marijuana, employers are removing the substance from their pre-employment drug testing panels.

Currently, 36 states allow the medical use of marijuana, with 18 states allowing recreational adult use. On a federal level, marijuana remains illegal and is categorized as a Schedule 1 drug along with cocaine and heroin.

According to a poll from Current Consulting Group’s (CCG) “2020 Employer Drug Testing Survey,” 36% of survey respondents plan to remove marijuana from their drug testing panels because they were experiencing delays or weren’t able to fill positions due to a high number of positive tests for marijuana.

Notably, in June, Amazon announce it would no longer include marijuana in its drug screenings for positions not regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The CCG survey shows that since it was released in August 2020, nearly 60% of drug testing providers reported that the number of drug tests sold or processed by their companies was down 41% since the pandemic began.

This trend is not just taking place in the U.S. but abroad as well.

A survey from staffing firm ManpowerGroup released in 2021 shows that out of more than 45,000 employers from 43 countries, 9% of them eliminated drug testing to “attract and retain in-demand talent.”

Tim Conboy, strategic account executive for Ultimate Staffing Services in Fresno, and board member for the Central Valley Safety Society, said that he is seeing staffing issues in all industries, both in industrial and professional sectors.

Conboy said that historically, the staffing firm would test for marijuana, but since its use has become so prevalent in recent years, there are clients that are eliminating it from the screening process for certain positions.

“THC stays in your system for 28 days, so even casual users are going to come up positive,” Conboy said. “With the market being as tight as it is, as long as it’s not impairing performance of the individual in their job, employers are looking the other way and not screening for it anymore.”

Those operating heavy machinery, forklift drivers and Class A license drivers are still being screened for marijuana because of federal safety regulations that come into play.

Because of the prevalence of marijuana use, especially with younger people, many qualified job applicants were being screened out for employment during the labor crunch.

With employers taking cannabis out of the screening process, more people will be encouraged to apply for jobs that would have traditionally required testing for marijuana.

“It’s being looked at in a whole different light and I don’t see us going back unless it’s for those sensitive areas with safety concerns. The accounting world might not be ready to accept those kinds of standards, but the perspective of employers is changed, especially in fields where there are large production staffs,” Conboy said.

The trend is being noticed across the entire staffing industry.

“There is a correlation of clients and candidates that are more open to recreational marijuana users, more than ever,” said Sean Akin, a strategic partner at Fresno based national staffing agency PrideStaff.

He said that he is seeing a lot of clients either reducing or completely taking away drug-screening requirements for potential employees.

Akin said that in Nevada, it is illegal to screen employees for Cannabis, and with other states going that direction, he expects California will follow suit.

The agency does follow the requirements of their employer clients, and there are still quite a few companies that test for marijuana, with Akin saying that there are more employers that do test for marijuana than don’t.

But the numbers are changing at the fastest rate he’s ever seen, Akin said.

Employers must specify what exactly they want their candidates screened for. It costs more money to have a substance removed from the testing panel. Testing panels without cannabis are less common. Akin suggests clients be specific with their testing lab vendors.

“Don’t get information you don’t need, if you don’t need it,” Akin said.

While regulations for workers operating heavy equipment and machinery have not changed, regulations are changing for those in entry-level production and even for administrative opportunities.

It is difficult to determine as an employer at what times an employee could be using or “high” on marijuana or other drugs, as an employee could be consuming drugs outside of the workplace and still have it show up on tests, a big variant between drugs and alcohol on the job site, Akin said.

While pre-employment drug testing has its own regulations, for-cause drug testing in California requires a legitimate reason that meets very certain requirements and has to be fact driven, but often employers go off of their “feelings” to test employees, Akin said.

“In today’s society, everything has to be accurate, and until they come up with a system to test how ‘high’ you are in the moment’, then I can see regulations changing again,” Akin said.

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