A diminishing number of private sector employers are testing their workers for the use of controlled substances, according to survey data provided by US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Researchers reported that the percentage of private worksites engaged in drug screening fell by nearly half since 1996, the last time the agency probed the issue. In the latest survey, about 16 percent of respondents said that they drug tested their employees.

Industries related to transportation, utilities, construction, and manufacturing were among those most likely to engage in drug screening. Companies employing larger numbers of people (100+ employees) were also far more likely to drug test than were smaller employers.

Employers were least likely to engage in drug testing if they resided in a state that has legalized the adult use of marijuana. Several of these states limit certain employers’ ability to drug test either prospective or current employees for past cannabis exposure. By contrast, none of the ten states with the highest rates of drug testing have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. 

Separate survey data provided in 2021 by the Manpower Group reported that an estimated nine percent of employers had recently “eliminated job screenings or drug tests” as a way to either attract or keep their employees.

Last year, representatives of the Amazon corporation announced that the company would no longer engage in pre-employment marijuana screenings for its new hires, except for those in federally regulated positions (that mandate drug testing). The Amazon corporation is the second-largest employer in the United States.

Urinalysis, the primary form of workplace drug testing, detects the presence of inactive marijuana byproducts that may be present for as many as 100 days post-abstinence. The detection of these products only indicates that a particular substance is present in the test subject’s body. It does not indicate either recency of use or impairment.

Additional information is available from NORML’s fact sheet, ‘Marijuana Legalization and Impact on the Workplace.’

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