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Record numbers of US workers test positive for cannabis

NewsRecord numbers of US workers test positive for cannabis

More workers in the US than ever before have tested positive for marijuana, a study has recently found, as many states across the country have now legalised cannabis use.

Quest diagnostics undertook extensive research, analysing urine tests of six million workers in 2022, discovering that 4.3% were positive for cannabis, which was 3.9% up on the 2021 figures.  That total was the highest ever recorded by Quest, who began their research into drug-testing in the workplace in 1988.

Quest also found that 7.3% of workers who had suffered a workplace injury tested positive for marijuana in 2022, up from 6.7% in 2021 — marking the highest positivity rate in 25 years.  Keith Ward, general manager and vice president for employer solutions at Quest, commented: “This historic rise seems to correspond with sharp increases in positivity for marijuana in both pre-employment and post-accident drug tests, suggesting that changing societal attitudes about marijuana may be impacting workplace behaviours.”

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According to Quest, the industries that saw the greatest increase in their positivity rates over the past five years are: hospitality and food services (up 42.9%); retail (42.6%), finance/insurance (38.5%) and transportation and warehousing (35.9%). Manufacturing was up 21.6%, while construction saw a 14.6% increase.

As well as marijuana, tests also came back positive for amphetamines, rising from 1.3% to 1.5%.  Ward added: “The increase in amphetamines positivity is also notable, given the addictive potential and health risks associated with this class of drugs.”

Some states have legalised recreational and medical marijuana use and these are the ones that rated highly than the national average, while the ones not legalising marijuana usually rated below the national average.

Cannabis first became legal for recreational use at the state level in Washington and Colorado in 2012. Since then, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalised recreational marijuana. Medicinal cannabis is also currently legal in 38 states, plus the District of Columbia.

Former administrative law judge Elena Cacavas, though, has warned that employers must tread carefully when it comes to thinking their workers are under the influence of drugs.  She said: “Employers have to be very careful because if they assume there is a symptom of impairment and it turns out to be the function of a disability, then they could have severe problems under the division of human rights.”

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