Last Updated on October 2020
We’re living in 2019, and even though some states have already legalized marijuana use, you can still be denied a job or even get fired if employers find any presence of THC or CBD in your drug test results.
To this day, the Drug Enforcement Administration still classifies cannabis as a ‘schedule 1 drug’ right next to harder, more life-threatening, more dangerous substances like cocaine and heroin.
Why Are Office Drug Tests Mandatory in the First Place?
The justification for drug testing in the workplace has always been out of a concern for safety, though there’s also one lesser-known reason as to why companies require it.
The first records of drug testing in America began in the 1970s, when it became rumored that army troops in Vietnam started using illicit substances, mainly, marijuana.
Former President Richard Nixon heard of this and mandated for veterans returning to America to undergo drug tests. Those who tested positive were then placed into rehabilitation.
Reagan’s War on Drugs
Fast-forward to the 1980s, Former President Ronald Reagan kept the ball rolling by making it a requirement for federal and government employees to have mandatory drug tests.
By way of an executive order, President Reagan’s prohibition of the use of marijuana among federal and government employees was soon extended to companies who had contracts with or did business with federal and government entities.
Soon after, private companies followed, making drug tests mandatory for new hires, as well as existing employees. Private companies justify this by stressing the importance of safety in the workplace, and how the effects of marijuana can be dangerous for the user, and the employees around them.
This reasoning can be justified for companies dealing with manual labor, hazardous chemicals or environments, even finance. Still, most private companies today require drug tests for potential hires and also implement random drug tests for existing employees.
Legally, Can You Refuse to Take a Drug Test?
If you’re already an employee and you’re asked to take a drug test, technically you can refuse to take one, BUT if you get fired because of your refusal, there’s really not a lot you can do.
Companies have every right to ask employees to take a drug test, and even if the employee refuses, claiming on good faith that they are drug-free, the burden of evidence still weighs on them.
Even if brought to court, the state will side with the company and most likely, the employee will be given an ultimatum of either taking the drug test or finding work elsewhere.
So, the bottom line is: Yes, you can refuse to take a drug test. But, it will end badly for you.
What About for Those Who Use Medical Cannabis?
Even if you use cannabis legally and for medical reasons, most employers will not acknowledge the difference. Their only concern is whether you pass or fail your drug test, and if any traces of THC or CBD are found in it.
Nowadays though, there’s a handful of companies who tolerate employees who use cannabis for medical reasons, though some terms still apply. To name a few, the employers who do allow it require that employees only use it for medical purposes and that they don’t use it during work hours or within work premises.
These companies though will be more understanding if they’re informed ahead. If you personally find marijuana to be helpful for you for medical reasons, ask someone within the company whom you trust, or a HR personnel.
Still, there’s no guarantee that you can still keep your job once you test positive for marijuana, whether or not you’ve informed your employer about your medical conditions.
A prime example of this is the case of Brandon Coats, a former employee of Dish Network in Denver, Colorado. Coats is a quadriplegic who occasionally uses medical marijuana to help with the frequent seizures he experiences from his disability.
Coats failed a random drug test while working for the company, and despite having incredibly valid reasons for using the drug, was subsequently fired. The state sided with Dish Network, saying that their decision to fire him was justified.
What Does the Future Have in Store?
As of now, it doesn’t seem like companies are going to do away with drug testing. Many companies are now even turning to hair testing, since drug testing with hair follicles can catch traces of marijuana even 90 days after its use.
However, there are some companies nowadays though are more open to employees using marijuana as long as it’s for medical reasons. In a survey from 2018, about two-thirds of companies in America now have a medical marijuana policy.
So the future is looking bright for weed smokers. But until then, stay safe, and use synthetic urine kits and other methods you can to keep testing negative!