Legal or Not, Employers Concerned About Marijuana Use

Nick Fishman

Trends in Employment Background Checks

For the sixth consecutive year, EmployeeScreenIQ surveyed U.S.-based employers regarding their use of employee background checks. As with our previous surveys, the 2015 survey was designed to provide a reliable snapshot of:

  • How employers currently utilize background checks.
  • How they respond to adverse findings on background checks.
  • Their paramount screening-related concerns.
  • And their practices concerning Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) responsibilities, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance, and evolving ban the box legislation.

Today, I’d like to share our findings on employers’ attitudes about how their hiring practices might change if recreational marijuana were to become legal throughout the United States.


Marijuana in the Workplace

Earlier this year, the headline of a Washington Post editorial declared, “Pot is increasingly legal. Employers need to stop screening for it.” While the first statement is undeniably true, it’s no reason for you to stop testing employees and applicants for marijuana—even if you are in a state that has legalized medical marijuana or recreational use of the drug. Legalization doesn’t remove the many reasons for marijuana screening, which include workplace safety, productivity and health concerns, limiting health insurance costs and protecting your company image.

What’s enlightening about these results is how few employers would ignore or overlook positive tests or past marijuana offenses, and how few would end their drug testing programs. Employers are concerned about marijuana use—legal or not.

Perhaps even more eye-opening is what Colorado employers have done since the state decriminalized recreational marijuana use. According to a survey by the Mountain States Employers Council, one in five employers reported they implemented more stringent drug testing policies. Meanwhile only 2% relaxed their testing for marijuana, while 71% reported that their policies hadn’t changed.

“There seems to be a movement toward more testing,” Curtis Graves, staff attorney with the Employers Council, told The Denver Post. “A lot of people are freaked out” about the prospects of employees’ legal marijuana use. And given the 20% increase in positive marijuana tests in the state, perhaps with good reason.

How Should You React?

With legalization increasing marijuana use, some employers—like those in Colorado—that want to preserve a drug-free environment will simply choose to do more drug testing.

However, unlike alcohol, marijuana has a long, residual presence in a person’s system, so it may not make sense to terminate people who test positive—especially those with marijuana prescriptions—as a matter of policy. But what certainly does make sense is to take the time to ensure that your drug testing policies protect your organization and suit your particular needs.

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
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