How is legalized marijuana going to affect workplace drug policies?

I live in Washington state, one of two states that has legalized marijuana for recreational use. By the middle of this summer anyone over 21 years of age should be able to go into one of several stores and purchase marijuana for personal use. There’s a problem though and it relates to drug-free workplace policies.

If your company has a drug-free policy (government and state contract job are all required to be drug-free) then even if you are no longer under the influence, you’re going to test positive up to a week later and get fired. Most other drugs, like cocaine or pain killers dissolve in your system in a relatively short period of time whereas marijuana stays in your system. You can go home on Friday night and snort a large amount of cocaine, show up at work on Monday morning, get drug tested and pass. If you smoke a joint, however, you’ll test positive even though the effects of the drug will have long worn off and that joint you smoke is in no way impairing your ability to do your job safely.

Even medical marijuana will get you fired. A medical marijuana case in Colorado (the only other state where marijuana is legal) got a worker fired even though he had a prescription. He took it to court and lost. He’s presently appealing the sentence but it’s doubtful whether he’ll win.

So, the question is, if it’s legal to take marijuana in WA and CO, who exactly is going to be able to take it? Apparently only the unemployed and even they would get in trouble if drug tested because I’m guessing that the state doesn’t want to pay unemployment to people who take drugs.

What needs to happen is that a new system for drug testing needs to be put in place. If it’s legal to take marijuana, like it’s legal to have a few drinks after work, then the issue should be “Is your use of marijuana interfering with your ability to do your job safely and effectively?” not whether or not, four days later we can still find traces of it in your system.

What are your thoughts on this topic?


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