Written By Digital Content Editor Thomas Ahearn
Drug abuse is up, positive drug test results are increasing, and the number of companies testing for marijuana is down, and “the finger of blame can be pointed at one main culprit—the legalization of marijuana,” according to an article titled “Three Major Reports in 2023 Highlight Current and Future State of Drug Testing.”
These trends are found in three major reports on drug testing: The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Drug Testing Index (DTI) from Quest Diagnostics, and the Annual Drug Testing Industry Survey from the Current Consulting Group.
“The trend to legalize marijuana corresponds precisely with the trend lines from these three major reports that indicate that substance abuse is here to stay, that drug testing is more needed than ever, and that the decision to drop marijuana from a company’s drug-test panel is ill-advised at best and potentially dangerous and costly.”
According to the NSDUH released in January 2023, substance abuse is on the rise. Key findings include: 52.5 million people admitted to using marijuana in 2021, which represents an increase from 49.6 million in 2020, and 37.3 million Americans admitted using marijuana in the month prior to being surveyed in 2021.
In other words, marijuana use is fueling America’s dramatic overall increase in substance abuse. And one specific key indicator within the NSDUH data portends more trouble on the substance abuse horizon. The NSDUH reported that 2.6 million people tried marijuana for the first time in 2021.
The latest Quest Diagnostics DTI shows a direct impact on the workplace. “The overall positivity rate in the combined U.S. workforce, based on more than nine million urine drug tests, was 4.6 percent in 2022 and 2021, an increase of 31.4 percent from the all-time low of 3.5 percent just 11 years ago (2010-2012).”
The DTI noted marijuana positivity increased 10.3 percent (3.9 percent in 2021 versus 4.3 percent in 2022) overall, 11.8 percent (5.1 percent in 2021 versus 5.7 percent in 2022) in states with legal recreational marijuana, and 8.3 percent (3.6 percent in 2021 versus 3.9 percent in 2022) in states with legal medical marijuana.
Lastly, the Current Consulting Group’s 25th Annual Drug Testing Industry Survey, co-sponsored by leading workforce background screening and drug testing provider ClearStar, found that the legalization of marijuana continues to have a negative impact on employers’ drug testing policies.
When drug testing providers were asked in the survey: “Have you had clients drop marijuana from their drug test panel in the last year?”: 53 percent answered “Yes, but not many,” 20 percent answered “Yes, too many,” 10 percent answered “No, but they expect some to do so,” and 16 percent answered “No.”
The top reasons why employers drop marijuana from their drug test panel include: 63 percent believe it makes it harder to hire new people, 42 percent said it is to avoid the risk of legal challenges from disgruntled applicants and employees, and 27 percent believe it is not legal to test for marijuana in their state(s).
“In the final analysis for employers, it comes down to workplace safety and protecting the bottom line. For those reasons, among others, drug testing, and testing for marijuana in particular, should be a part of every company’s commitment to maintaining a safe and productive workplace,” the article concluded.
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