Medical Marijuana and the Impact on Hiring and Drug Testing

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Nowadays, marijuana is considered an illegal drug in the US under the Federal Controlled Substance Act as well as safety standards that have been imposed by the agencies. Many federal agencies, like the Transport Department, do not allow their employees to use medical marijuana at the safety-sensitive positions. 23 states in America alongside with the District of Columbia have decriminalized marijuana use for medical purposes. Under the statutory schemes, individuals with qualified conditions may become cardholders who are registered and can obtain marijuana for medical reasons. They often receive the cannabis from state-regulated dispensaries, and it has presented many challenges for employers (Hollinshead 71). The use of marijuana has been under control in all states except Colorado and Washington that have made it lawful for recreational use. Therefore, it has made drug testing programs by employers arguing that marijuana is illegal and many employers have insisted on a drug-free work environment. Therefore, current paper aims at analyzing the medical marijuana and its impact on hiring process and drug testing.

Medical Marijuana and Drug Testing

In the increasing number of states, medical marijuana is either legal or under consideration. In 2009, the judiciary announced that they were unable to prosecute users of marijuana for medical purposes. It has left enforcements in the hands of state and local governments. Nevertheless, the federal laws have permitted the discharge or any other adverse job action when an employee tests positive for cannabis even when it was used for medical purposes. For instance, the Colorado state law has forbidden firing employees for lawful duty behavior that might also include using marijuana for medical purposes.

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If a medical marijuana user is believed to have a disability for ADA purposes, adverse employment action on such basis could violate the ADA. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that even in states permitting medical marijuana, an employer may penalize an employee testing positive for drugs. In 2005, it led to the judiciary permitting the federal government to enforce the Controlled Substance Act, thus, prohibiting medical marijuana even when permitted by the state. Studies have revealed that American population supports the legalization of marijuana. Polls conducted on marijuana legalization have revealed that even the youth advocate for the legal use of the drug. Medical researchers have hypothesized and proved the medical benefits of the drug, stating that it is remedial to various health conditions. On the other hand, Pew Research Centre in the United States of America acknowledged that approximately 52% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana (Verstraete 166).

Many jurisdictions in the United States have supported the legalization of marijuana use for medical purposes. However, it posed certain challenges for employers whose interests may be affected as a result of medical and recreational marijuana use in the workplace. Essentially, many employers have enacted policies of drug-free workplaces. However, medical marijuana has caused antagonism in upholding such policies. Medical marijuana users have gained employee protection, and it has challenged the employers, since they cannot legally fire such employees. As a result, it is more probable that the courts will allow pre-employment drug testing than testing of current workers. Such situation is based on the theory that every employee has a legitimate right to privacy. The most disturbing question for many employers is whether they can impose lawful disciplinary action on employees testing positive for marijuana (Hickox 273). Many states have exemptions for employers to prohibit use of marijuana in their companies or to be intoxicated during working time.

Drug Testing in the Workplace

Employers have an understandable interest when maximizing their employees’ performances. They are mostly concerned that drug users may work less efficiently, have more accidents or use more medical benefits. Moreover, many employers with religious values may favor hiring abstainers due to moral objections to drug use. Research has shown that over 80% of firms in the US test for drugs and spend much money in the process of testing. The opponents of drug testing have held the view that it is a degrading experience qualified as being an illegal search and seizure (Hollinshead 75). They say it is a more utilitarian perspective that the cost of testing outweighs its benefits.

Various studies of cannabis users can be considered to answer some of the lingering questions about accidents, job efficiency and medical benefits. Few data has clearly addressed the efficiency of marijuana smokers at their workplaces. Some studies suggest that they earn higher wages compared to nonsmokers. Intoxication on the job would likely impair job performance, though some studies suggest that workers have reported improved manual labor after smoking. Research has shown that very few people use illicit drugs at work, and any residual effects from marijuana consumption while off-duty are extremely low. Recent study on post office employees’ accidents found no difference between drug users and non-users. It found out that marijuana did not have any impact on health benefits (Verstraete 166).


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Interview with the Manager of Homewood Suites by Hilton

Homewood Suites is a hospitality company that is founded on moral grounds and values. In an interview with Charles Ryan, the general manager, he asserted that their hiring process considers drug testing as the obligation. Their workers are expected to be on high moral grounds and be presentable to customers at all times. Moreover, they are forbidden to be intoxicated while working time whether it is for medicinal purposes or not. The manager maintains that they will not allow marijuana users in the premises as they may scare customers who may be of Christian faith and who consider cannabis an immoral drug (Hickox 273). When asked whether drug testing is discriminatory, the manager argued that it is the company’s responsibility to maintain high values and moral grounds. How we interpret that according to the manager is our own responsibility, and the company does not regret offering drug test before one is hired. In all job advertisements made by the company, they always insist that the pre-employment drug test will be required.

Interview with the HR Manager for GM on Drug Testing and Medical Marijuana

In an interview with the human resource manager at GM, John Quattrone, he argued that drug testing before employment is obligatory. He also said that they have random drug testing on their employees, since their job is very sensitive and requires sober minds. When asked if they are not infringing on the employees’ right to privacy, he argued that it is the policy of the company and every employee knows it before being hired. The company has contracted Psychemedics Corporation to undertake drug test on its employees (Verstraete 166). Any employee found to be intoxicated or under the influence of the substance is penalized or, if necessary, fired.

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How the Use of Medical Marijuana Affects Employment

The marijuana legalization has been spreading from state to state and employers will have to think of their future policies regarding employment. The questionable workplace situations involving medical marijuana will make employers confused about who they are allowed to accommodate according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Federal Government states that marijuana is illegal, thus, employers with federal contracts ought to comply with the federal law to receive reimbursements via the contracts. Every employee ought to adhere to the drug-free workplace, and if he/she is testing positive without having the legal marijuana card from an approved establishment, the employer has to take measures and punish him/her. The inability of accurately testing the impairment of marijuana in the workplace has compounded current problem.

Drug testing has proven to be relatively impervious to legal challenge. The primary legal limitations on drug testing stem from state laws and the US Government. Random testing for positions that are not safety-sensitive is the form of drug testing most vulnerable to challenge. The Drug-Free Workplace Act has not mandated drug testing but requires that employers who have contracts with the Federal Government adopt and communicate policies prohibiting drug use or sale in the workplace (Pidd and Roche 164). Many companies drug screen their potential employees prior to hiring them and then drug screen the workers at random.

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Types of Drug Tests

Hair Testing

It is a method whereby a hair analysis is carried out with the aim of detecting drug abuse by an individual. In the US, such method is generally accepted and is usually performed to provide forensic evidence. In addition, organizations carry out such analysis on potential employees before they are formally employed. Therefore, the method is both legally and scientifically recognized as a source of forensic evidence.

Urinary Testing

Current method is mostly applied by employers to potential employees and mainly involves testing the individual’s urine for certain types of drug substances. In the US, for instance, the employees are usually advised to go to a collection site where they collect the urine in a specially designed and sealed cup from where the urine is taken to the lab under a special procedure to avoid tampering. Then, various tests are carried out and the results supplied to the relevant authorities.

Employee Drug Testing in the US

In the USA, a majority of various corporations have made it mandatory for their employees to be tested for drug use. In addition, the Supreme Court has ruled it constitutionally permissible for both the private and the public sector to carry out mandatory drug testing for all the employees. In such case, all potential and existing employees are forced to undergo the program in order to conform to the standards and policies set out by the corporations.

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Mandatory drug testing program is very significant when dealing with the workplace environment. According to Knights, the management of an organization cannot rely only on the pronouncements by the media and government officials regarding the employee drug testing. As such, the management ought to receive first-hand information on true dimensions of the drug problem that impacts its organization (Schrengohst 20).

Drug testing attracts much significance in regard to the issue of safety in the workplace. In the US, a majority of companies carry out drug testing. It is usually done to reduce the impacts of drug and substance abuse in the workplace. In the US, drug abuse by the employees results in such issues as high rates of absenteeism, attitude problems, high employee turnover rate, decreased productivity and increased crime and violence. Such drug issues result in massive losses to the organizations. For instance, it is estimated that $75 to $ 100 billion dollars worth of lost time, accidents and worker compensation costs are experienced every year by different organizations as a result of drug and substance abuse.

In view of the factors mentioned above, drug testing in the workplace can be termed to be an effective way to reduce drug and substance abuse in both the workplace and the society in general. Considering the fact that in the US the Supreme Court has ruled it constitutionally to perform drug testing in the workplace, it will be prudent to note that drug and substance abuse has become a menace that results in negative effects on different spheres of peoples’ lives. Anyway, in regard to the employers, merely conducting mandatory drug tests on employees may not be enough to fight the menace. Adequate policies and procedures should be implemented to ensure that employees who test positive for substance abuse are given adequate counseling and rehabilitation. It will require much time to enhance their productivity besides helping them to overcome the problem.

Impacts of Drug Testing and Medical Marijuana

Many people have argued that drug testing is targeting only marijuana users and does not protect public safety. It has served mainly in identifying and banning cannabis consumers from the workforce and sanctioning them in the environments of work. Potential effects of drug testing are people losing jobs or their reputation, benefits and pension loss, denial of transplants, etc. Many employers have been relying on information by drug testing promoters who may have an inherent conflict of interest regarding drugs (Mello 562). They use that to discriminate workers, especially marijuana users. Given the limited benefits of identifying marijuana smokers, the cost of drug testing will be beneficial to the people with a strong moral opposition to cannabis.

The proponents of drug testing have argued that the tests deter drug use among employees. In addition, the rate of positive tests parallels the reported rates of drug use in the nation. It means that the government workers use illicit drugs at the same rate as others, and it suggests that the tests do not deter consumption. A clear drug testing policy ought to be implemented and the applicants should be informed about the policy prior to conducting the test. Drug testing policies often include information regarding the people who will be tested, the consequences of a positive test, what substances are being tested and the time for testing.

The methods of employees testing have varied in regards to their sensitivity, time, specificity and cost. Testing for drug substance is becoming common for many organizations. The procedure during pre-employment establishes a company’s attitude to drugs and prevents drug users from joining the company. Moreover, it does not influence the terms and conditions of employment and helps introduce the concept of testing to other employees. The disadvantage is that the result is only valid for the day of the test performance, and there is no deterrent factor. In addition, the testing results in creating a blacklist of applicants in many sectors, which is time- and efforts-consuming due to the need to keep records to avoid repeat testing. Pre-employment testing is often viewed as an intelligence test as most employable drug users would have a possibility to abstain from substance use to achieve a negative result. The applicants will simply know that testing will be a part of the recruitment process.

Employees in the US have held a strong sentiment that testing should be fair, though their definition of fair sometimes is not rational (Kitterlin and Lisa 315). Mandatory drug testing in the workplace poses some legal and ethical considerations. For instance, where it is a legal norm for an employee to have the right of privacy while at work, such legal right in most instances is interpreted flexibly in line with the needs of the employer. It is done to ensure safe, healthy and productive workforce. In most cases, workers argue that such tests are an invasion of their privacy. More so, procedures relating to taking samples, especially bodily samples, are always humiliating and degrading.

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How Medical Marijuana Will Continue Costing Potential Employees Their Job

In case medical marijuana is legalized, employees will still suffer from it unless the attitudes of the companies change. Many employers are religious in nature and view drug use as a sin. As a result, they will not hire someone taking marijuana even if it is for medical purposes. Workers will always risk being fired even if the states continue legalizing the medical marijuana. Legal experts have argued that companies would most likely make individual judgments regarding employees prescribed to take medical marijuana. Any employer prohibiting the use of marijuana will be able to enforce his/her policies without legal threats (Kitterlin and Lisa 315). It is possible due to the fact that marijuana is illegal under the federal laws, thus, it can legally allow employers to demand drug tests for employees either at random or during the hiring process. Testing positive can still result in job lose, even if the employees are taking the drug for medicinal purposes.

Some employers may not object to hiring employees who are on medical prescription and have cards authorizing them to use medical marijuana. Many human resource managers have said that they would permit the individuals with valid prescriptions to work in their companies, on contrary to the companies having policies that prohibit marijuana. The laws that govern the treatment of disabled people in the US workplaces ought to be a concern for many employers. The Disabilities Act has excluded protection of individuals who are engaged in illegal use of drugs. There could be a conflict of law in states like Florida, which have enacted the Civil Rights Act protecting disabled employees from any form of discrimination. It means that any employer who fires an employee for use of medical marijuana might be risking to be charged under the state laws.

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From the above analysis, it can be concluded that medical marijuana and drug test have both positive and negative impact on the hiring process. The positive impacts are that the process enables the companies to hire sober people who will be effective and not prone to accidents. The health benefits to the employees will be minimized if they are not drug users. It also enables companies to have a workforce supporting certain values and morals. The negative impact is that it can be discriminatory as some employees may take medical marijuana that is legal in their states. It means that they should not be subjected to such discriminatory acts like drug testing. It has also been proven that marijuana use does not lead to accidents in the workplace. In fact, many people have argued that they are motivated to work with using the substance. However, current topic will continue eliciting debates until marijuana whether becomes legalized or banned in all states.

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