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Everything Cannabis Users Need to Know About Drug Testing

Everything Cannabis Users Need to Know About Drug Testing

By Jorge Hermida - December 13, 2019

The legalization of marijuana is undeniably making things more complicated for employers who operate a business within a state that allows marijuana use. They’re pressing on though and, for the moment, most are choosing to keep marijuana on the company drug test.
Cannabis users who don’t understand how the testing works may risk failing and suffering the
consequences.
Employers have the right, and in some cases are required by federal law, to include marijuana in their drug testing panels because employees under the influence of the drug create a safety hazard in the workplace. However, because employee drug testing methods identify the drug’s metabolites rather than the parent drug, some are calling for marijuana to be banned from workplace drug testing altogether. Marijuana metabolites stay in the system long past the time
of impairment.
Employers feel that until there is a way to identify that someone is under the influence of the
the drug at a specific point in time, current test methods will at least alert them to the fact that
someone uses the drug.
Those who legally use cannabis, of course, don’t feel that’s fair play.
Testing methods
The three most commonly used methods used for employee drug testing are urine, mouth swab, and hair follicle tests. Blood testing is also an option, however, it’s extremely intrusive and expensive. Blood tests can identify the parent drug, thereby, acknowledging current impairment.
Employers usually reserve the blood test for post-accident testing when knowing if drugs were
involved could aid investigators in determining the cause.
Urine drug test
The most commonly used drug testing method, the urine test, identifies marijuana in the system for varying amounts of time after discontinuing use. It depends on how often someone used the drug.
● Someone who uses occasionally may test positive for up to three days.
● Moderate use is identified for up to a week.
● Daily use shows up on the drug test for up to fifteen days.
● Those who use multiple times a day can test positive for more than 30 days.
The metabolites remain in the system for such an extended time because they’re fat-soluble.
That means that they bind themselves to the fat molecules in the body.
Mouth swab test

The legalization of marijuana is undeniably making things more complicated for employers who operate a business within a state that allows marijuana use. They’re pressing on though and, for the moment, most are choosing to keep marijuana on the company drug test. 

Cannabis users who don’t understand how the testing works may risk failing and suffering the consequences.

Employers have the right, and in some cases are required by federal law, to include marijuana in their drug testing panels because employees under the influence of the drug create a safety hazard in the workplace. However, because employee drug testing methods identify the drug’s metabolites rather than the parent drug, some are calling for marijuana to be banned from workplace drug testing all together. Marijuana metabolites stay in the system long past the time of impairment. 

Employers feel that until there is a way to identify that someone is under the influence of the drug at a specific point in time, current test methods will at least alert them to the fact that someone uses the drug. 

Those who legally use cannabis, of course, don’t feel that’s fair play.

Testing methods

The three most commonly used methods used for employee drug testing are urine, mouth swab, and hair follicle tests. Blood testing is also an option, however, it’s extremely intrusive and expensive. Blood tests can identify the parent drug, thereby, acknowledging current impairment.

Employers usually reserve the blood test for post-accident testing when knowing if drugs were involved could aid investigators in determining the cause. 

Urine drug test 

The most commonly used drug testing method, the urine test, identifies marijuana in the system for varying amounts of time after discontinuing use. It depends on how often someone used the drug. 

  • Someone who uses occasionally may test positive for up to three days. 
  • Moderate use is identified for up to a week. 
  • Daily use shows up on the drug test for up to fifteen days. 
  • Those who use multiple times a day can test positive for more than 30 days. 

The metabolites remain in the system for such an extended time because they’re fat-soluble. That means that they bind themselves to the fat molecules in the body. 

Mouth swab test

Employers often choose the mouth swab test if they’re looking for recent drug use. Most drugs are identified within minutes. Marijuana included. The detection period doesn’t go past the twenty-four hour mark. Some employers are starting to use this method to detect very recent drug use but ignore the rest.

Hair test

The hair on our head grows about one-half inch per month. When using the standard length of hair—one and one-half inches—these tests identify drug use for up to ninety days. Drug metabolites that find their way to the hair follicle grow out into the center of the hair shaft leaving a permanent record of drug use. 

Furthermore, it’s possible for collectors to use body hair in the absence of head hair. The body hair tested pertains to volume rather than length. The sample size can be compared to that of a cotton ball. It winds up being about an inch in diameter. It’s possible to detect drug use in body hair samples from 30 days up to a year.

Marijuana and the workplace

Some state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of medical marijuana use. Furthermore, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Minnesota, Oregon, and Rhode Island stipulate that a positive drug test alone doesn’t prove current impairment. New Jersey allows an employee or prospective employee to present a medical explanation for the test result. 

Moreover, Nevada and New York City will put laws into effect in 2020 that ban employers from including marijuana as part of a pre-employment drug test. Thankfully, they left safety carve-outs in place that allow for continued testing in certain situations.

Being aware of the laws in your state that pertain to employee drug-testing is always a wise course of action.

At the federal level, the Washington, DC city council approved a measure protecting city employees using medical marijuana. It’s awaiting approval from Congress. Lastly, in September, the Mayor of Washington, DC ordered the protection of all cannabis users’ employment rights.

Pending legislation at all levels

Marijuana legalization will continue to appear on state ballots across the nation in 2020 as Arizona, Arkansas, and New Jersey put recreational marijuana to the vote. Meanwhile, Idaho, Mississippi, and South Dakota are seeking approval next year for medical marijuana legalization. 

The list may grow as advocates work to obtain the required number of signatures in Florida and North Dakota petitioning for a ballot initiative to legalize recreational use. Lastly, Nebraska could be putting medical marijuana to a vote once again. Advocates are working to gather enough signatures to include an amendment proposal legalizing the use and sale of medical cannabis.

Furthermore, after discussing the matter for little more than two hours, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act on Wednesday, November 20th. Advocates hope it retains its momentum and moves through the House just as quickly. 

If passed, the bill decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level leaving governing to the individual states. As more and more states legalize marijuana use and without the federal government standing behind them, employers can’t help but wonder where that will leave them.

We need a test for current impairment

Many people liken marijuana legalization to the end of alcohol prohibition in the United States. It’s legal to use alcohol, but everyone knows you don’t imbibe while on the clock unless you’re prepared to face the consequences. While cannabis users totally get that concept, unlike alcohol, there’s not a marijuana breathalyzer to immediately detect employees who break the rule—yet.

Hound Labs has been hard at work developing a marijuana breathalyzer and it’s reached the field testing stage. It’s expected to be on the market sometime in 2020 and, of course, it’s predicted to sell very well.

Studies show that the amount of time that marijuana is detected on the breath is approximately the same amount of them that one is impaired. So, no matter if a cannabis user smokes, eats, or vapes the drug, it’s traceable in the lungs during the time they experience the drug’s effects.

It sounds as if a marijuana breathalyzer may eventually resolve the drug testing issue. In the meantime, carve-outs could benefit everyone. Lawmakers putting stipulations on marijuana drug testing can intentionally leave safety measures in place allowing for drug testing to continue under certain job descriptions where safety is an issue.

It will take a while to iron out the details but by working together we’ll get the job done.

David BellDavid Bell manages USA Mobile Drug Testing, a national workplace drug testing company serving employers, sports, government organizations, and even individuals.

Employers often choose the mouth swab test if they’re looking for recent drug use. Most drugs are identified within minutes. Marijuana included. The detection period doesn’t go past the twenty-four-hour mark. Some employers are starting to use this method to detect very recent drug use but ignore the rest.
Hair test
The hair on our head grows about one-half inch per month. When using the standard length of hair—one and one-half inches—these tests identify drug use for up to ninety days. Drug metabolites that find their way to the hair follicle grow out into the center of the hair shaft leaving a permanent record of drug use.
Furthermore, it’s possible for collectors to use body hair in the absence of head hair. The body hair tested pertains to volume rather than length. The sample size can be compared to that of a
cotton ball. It winds up being about an inch in diameter. It’s possible to detect drug use in body hair samples from 30 days up to a year.
Marijuana and the workplace
Some state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of medical marijuana use. Furthermore, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Minnesota, Oregon, and
Rhode Island stipulates that a positive drug test alone doesn’t prove current impairment. New
Jersey allows an employee or prospective employee to present a medical explanation for the test result.
Moreover, Nevada and New York City will put laws into effect in 2020 that ban employers from including marijuana as part of a pre-employment drug test. Thankfully, they left safety carve-
outs in place that allow for continued testing in certain situations.
Being aware of the laws in your state that pertain to employee drug-testing is always a wise the course of action.
At the federal level, the Washington, DC city council approved a measure protecting city employees using medical marijuana. It’s awaiting approval from Congress. Lastly, in
September, the Mayor of Washington, DC ordered the protection of all cannabis users’ employment rights.
Pending legislation at all levels Marijuana legalization will continue to appear on state ballots across the nation in 2020 as
Arizona, Arkansas, and New Jersey put recreational marijuana to the vote. Meanwhile, Idaho, Mississippi and South Dakota are seeking approval next year for medical marijuana legalization.

The list may grow as advocates work to obtain the required number of signatures in Florida and
North Dakota petitioning for a ballot initiative to legalize recreational use. Lastly, Nebraska could be putting medical marijuana to a vote once again. Advocates are working to gather enough signatures to include an amendment proposal legalizing the use and sale of medical cannabis.
Furthermore, after discussing the matter for little more than two hours, the House Judiciary
Committee passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act on
Wednesday, November 20th. Advocates hope it retains its momentum and moves through the
House just as quickly.
If passed, the bill decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level leaving governing to the individual states. As more and more states legalize marijuana use and without the federal
government standing behind them, employers can’t help but wonder where that will leave them.
We need a test for current impairment
Many people liken marijuana legalization to the end of alcohol prohibition in the United States.
It’s legal to use alcohol, but everyone knows you don’t imbibe while on the clock unless you’re prepared to face the consequences. While cannabis users totally get that concept, unlike alcohol, there’s not a marijuana breathalyzer to immediately detect employees who break the rule—yet. Hound Labs has been hard at work developing a marijuana breathalyzer and it’s reached the field testing stage. It’s expected to be on the market sometime in 2020 and, of course, it’s predicted to sell very well.
Studies show that the amount of time that marijuana is detected on the breath is approximately the same amount of them that one is impaired. So, no matter if a cannabis user smokes, eats, or vapes the drug, it’s traceable in the lungs during the time they experience the drug’s effects.
It sounds as if a marijuana breathalyzer may eventually resolve the drug testing issue. In the meantime, carve-outs could benefit everyone. Lawmakers putting stipulations on marijuana drug testing can intentionally leave safety measures in place allowing for drug testing to continue
under certain job descriptions where safety is an issue.
It will take a while to iron out the details but by working together we’ll get the job done.

David Bell
David Bell manages USA Mobile Drug Testing, a national workplace drug testing company
serving employers, sports, government organizations, and even individuals.