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Pre-Employment Drug Tests: How Corporations Wage War on Cannabis Users

This article is addressed most specifically to the business communities in the states where cannabis is legal recreationally. Why are you continuing to do pre-employment drug tests? One need only search Craig’s list or an equivalent job platform to see the pattern. In a recent search, I read multiple postings where the employer states they “test for marijuana too;” they had to actually qualify it because they know the substance is legal and a large portion of the population is likely smoking it. Many would view this as cutting off your nose to spite your face and yet these businesses persist.

These seemingly unnecessary drug tests are being done by thrift stores, grocery stores, recycling centers, gas stations, and many more employers. Most of these jobs do not even pay a living wage, yet they expect people to forgo legal consumption of cannabis to attain the position. The current test for cannabis will be positive a week or more after someone has consumed cannabis so the equivalent policies would be to demand job seekers not drink alcohol for up to a week, not consume coffee or tea for up to a week, or not imbibe sugar for a week to get a job.

In case it is not abundantly clear to the business community, cannabis is legal for recreational (and medical) use in your state. No joke, anyone over 21 can buy some bud in a store just like a six pack of beer or a Starbucks latte. Some people even grow it in their own backyard like tomatoes. In short, society has advanced towards respecting individual freedom and self-determination on the issue of medicinal and recreational use, and you guys really need to catch the hell up.

I must admit, the business community is not the only culprit here; local governments are also imposing bans and restrictions in opposition to the state cannabis laws. Why they don’t see that this only serves to sever those communities from jobs, taxes, and economic activity is beyond me. It appears that they would rather protect people from some undescribed menace they associate with the cannabis plant than take advantage of an economic opportunity.

Cannabis is one of the only growing industries in this country, yet rural towns all across my state of Oregon have turned up their noses at the potential boost to their crumbling economies. Whether it’s ignorance, a close-minded perception about what cannabis is, or stubbornness born of decades of propaganda many decision makers are placing their communities squarely on the wrong side of history. You can witness their shame by viewing the list here: OLCC Website. I hope they see the light soon and embrace economic growth over outdated ideology.

Photo credit: Bree A. Hood

As for the business community, they do not rely upon lawmaking to impose pre-employment drug tests. They are choosing to implement this policy. There is no federal law which requires testing people for cannabis, and I could not locate any state laws mandating such actions for private businesses. Only entities such as federally insured banks and federal contractors require drug testing their employees, and only because of the inconsistency of the federal law. So, federal standards are not applicable or a valid excuse to continue a bad business practice at the state level or private level. And, it is most assuredly a bad business practice. Studies have shown there is little to no correlation that pre-employment drug testing has any effect on creating a drug-free workplace. Retaining a policy which does not achieve its goal is nonsensical. Click To Tweet

But here’s the most distressing fact about drug testing in the workplace: As was the case 30 years ago, testing has no solid base of evidence, no proof that it succeeds. We don’t know if screening workers for recent drug use makes them more productive, lowers their risk of getting into accidents, or otherwise helps maintain the social order. And what positive effects we do understand—there are indeed a few—seem almost accidental.  ~ Slate.com

History is also important to acknowledge here. The prominence of drug testing came from the Regan era, whose executive order in 1988 resulted in legislation requiring federal employees to be tested. It was and is still voluntary for private employers to do so as well. In all reality, this idea of testing is a relic of Reagan’s “War on Drugs”, a policy that lit a fire under already discriminatory mass incarceration and which largely targeted minority communities. It is well documented how Reagan era drug laws targeted and applied increased punishment upon crack which was more commonly used by the black community vs cocaine which was more commonly used by affluent white people, and is evidenced by the passing of “The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010”. Still, this institutional racism is present even today where cannabis consumption is concerned;

According to the ACLU’s original analysis, marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana. Nationwide, the arrest data revealed one consistent trend: significant racial bias. Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.”     ~ aclu.org

Ultimately, what I hope the decision makers of industry begin to understand is that there is no logical or economically sound reason to test a low or even moderate wage worker for cannabis, certainly not in a state that has legalized the recreational consumption of the plant. The policy is, in essence, denying employment to otherwise upstanding citizens, and thus inhibiting their access to the resources needed to sustain human life. In fact, I am willing to call the practice barbaric, unjustly punitive, not cost effective and plain out self-defeating as you shrink your own pool of workers needlessly.

It is also important to note that the cannabis industry itself is now part of the “business community” and what that means is they buy raw materials from other local businesses, employ the consumer base that other industries rely upon, and they drive economic growth across many other industries. As such it would seem like a better business strategy to avoid conflict with a business peer by not drug testing your employees for the commercial product they produce.

Whether the business community likes it or not many states have gone decidedly green, and many more will follow over time. Many activists and patients fought hard to bring about this legislative change expressly to tear down the wall separating so many cannabis smokers from gainful employment and societal acceptance. The private business class must not take up where the government left off; the people should not have to fight this fight with employers after working so hard to change the laws themselves. The people will not go backward and so you, the business community, must instead join us on the right side of history. #CannabisWars 

“The war on drugs has made government more powerful, citizens less free, and hasn’t helped users or addicts.” ~ Victor Mitchell

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Bree Hood
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Bree Hood

Contributing Writer at Indie Writer
Bree is a published writer and a post-partisan thinker who views politics and social motivations through a lens of self-determination and community empowerment. Bree is a non-conformist when it comes to social norms and insists on seeking truth instead of repeating dogmas and the mantras of the establishment. Bree is truly an independent writer and thinker.
Bree Hood
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