New Employee Drug Testing In Colorado
Since Colorado legalized recreational cannabis use in 2012, I’ve seen a huge increase in candidates failing their drug tests. More often than not, these failed tests stem from ‘legal’ marijuana use and they expose a bit of a problem with the status of the drug.
There are always going to be extremes in either direction, but in many cases, employers view legal cannabis in similar terms to alcohol. What an employee does on their own time is their own business, as long as it doesn’t overlap with work or reflect poorly upon the company. A casual beer (or three) while at the Nuggets game on the weekend isn’t a problem, but showing up to work intoxicated or getting drunk while representing the company at a networking function is.
The problem with cannabis is that it stays in the system much longer than alcohol, making it difficult to determine whether or not somebody is consuming a legal product on their own time or using narcotics while on the job.
As more and more states legalize cannabis for recreational use things may change, but as of right now, most drug tests will detect cannabis use. A Colorado Supreme Court ruling in 2015 stated that employees can be terminated for marijuana consumption regardless of when the drug was consumed.
The takeaway here is simple: if you know you are going to be tested after getting hired, it is your responsibility to ensure that the test comes back negative.
I talked to one of EXPECT’s regular clients to learn more about their firm’s specific drug tests and their opinions on legal cannabis and the workplace.
Here are some key points:
- Employers can determine the number and type of drugs to be tested for many firms use an 8-panel test for the broad categories of amphetamines, cannabinoids (including marijuana), cocaine, PCP, and opiates.
- Testing programs are often an executive and HR decision.
- An offer of employment must be made to an applicant before they can be sent for drug testing (but the offer can be conditional, contingent on successfully passing the drug screen).
- Urinalysis and hair follicle tests are two common options for pre-employment drug tests, but urinalysis is generally more prevalent.
- Private employers have a fair amount of latitude unless they are subject to certain federal regulations such Department of Transportation (DOT) drug-testing rules for safety-sensitive positions.
- The testing process generally includes collection, lab analysis, and Medical Review Officer (MRO) review. If the test is positive, the employee is contacted by the MRO and given the opportunity to discuss any prescription medications they may be taking that could affect the test result. The result is then communicated to the employer.
My advice to anyone getting drug tested in Colorado?
Although job seekers might think recreational cannabis legalization has caused new employee drug testing in Colorado to decline, this is not the case. If you believe that you may fail an upcoming drug test because of past (legal) cannabis use, I would strongly recommend purchasing an over the counter test kit to test yourself in advance.
Of course, the best way to avoid testing positive for cannabis use in Colorado is to simply avoid taking the drug entirely. Legal or not, it is unlikely that cannabis will provide the same benefit to you or your family as your new job. Recreational cannabis use can’t send you to jail in Colorado, but it can send you to the unemployment line. Be smart out there!