When the Law Allows Using Marijuana, but the Boss Disagrees


Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Michigan, a state that legalized recreational use last year, tests all of its employees. “A positive test for marijuana use will disqualify a candidate,” the company told The Detroit Free Press.

When contacted by The New York Times last month, the company added that its rules barred possession or use at work. Josh Hovey, who served as communications director for the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan, said he had met regularly with the state Chamber of Commerce and local businesses before the referendum. “And a lot of what they were concerned with was their H.R. policies,” he said. In other states, like Minnesota, where medical marijuana is legal and 19 Fortune 500 companies are based, there has not been as much interaction between lobbyists for legal marijuana and the business community. “We have not seen large companies reach out to us about this issue,” said LeiliFatehi, campaign manager for Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation.

The change came quickly to the states, but on the front lines of drug tests, there is a decided lag. Quest Diagnostics compiles data on more than 10 million drug tests a year. Only a small number of companies have struck marijuana from the list of drugs they screen for, and nationally, roughly 99 percent of all general workforce drug tests include marijuana.

“For the most part it hasn’t had a large effect on those recreational-use states and no measurable effect in the medical marijuana states,” said Barry Sample, Quest’s senior director for science and technology. There have been subtle but real differences at the state level. From 2015 to 2018, the number of companies in both Colorado and Washington that included marijuana on their drug-testing panel dropped just under 4 percent. In Nevada’s first year of legalization, marijuana testing among employers fell more than 8 percent.

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