Is It Time to Stop Screening for Pot When Hiring?

Research from outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas finds that as of mid February, recreational marijuana is legal in nine states, while medicinal marijuana is legal in 29 states. Yet, despite shifting perception of marijuana, many companies still utilize drug tests that screen out job candidates who use marijuana.

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The firm says that companies that maintain a “no pot users” policy are not keeping up with the times—to their detriment.

Societal Shift

“This policy was originally implemented as a way to screen out drug users in an attempt to only hire the most productive workers. However, with marijuana becoming legal across the nation, and more of the workforce partaking in marijuana use on a regular basis, strict anti-marijuana policy may actually hurt companies as they attempt to attract the best talent in a tight labor market,” says Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Recognizing the societal shift, employers are beginning to reevaluate their stance.
“Companies are starting to treat marijuana like alcohol or other legal substances,” says Challenger. “While it is good policy to ban drugs and alcohol in the workplace, what workers do after hours – as long as it does not impair the company’s operations or productivity, or otherwise do harm – should not have any bearing on how workers are viewed by their employers.”

Increase in Usage

The Challenger firm points out that marijuana industry, and marijuana usage, is growing.
According to Gallup, one in eight Americans smokes marijuana, double the percentage who reported they smoked three years ago. Meanwhile, last year, the legal marijuana industry recorded $9 billion in sales and is predicted to hit $11 billion in 2018, due in part to the addition of California as a legal marijuana market.

Change in Policies

Because of the widespread use of marijuana, some governments and companies are already changing their policies to better align with public opinion, the firm notes, citing AutoNation, a Florida-based car retailer with dealerships across the country, as an example. While AutoNation still upholds a drug- and alcohol-free work environment, it decided not to consider marijuana use as part of the hiring process.
City governments are also starting to enact widespread policy change, the firm says. San Francisco, for example, is moving to eliminate marijuana-related drug convictions; lower-level convictions could potentially be expunged from records; and higher-level convictions could be downgraded. This comes just as California made recreational marijuana sales and use legal throughout the state at the beginning of this year.
Even global opinion toward the drug is leaning in favor of decriminalization in some countries. Just this year, Germany’s chief of police called for decriminalizing marijuana. While public opinion in favor of marijuana in Germany is not as strong as in America, decriminalization in Germany would have widespread implications not just for the country, but for the European Union as a whole.
Companies opting not to test for marijuana have the potential to save money and access a wider pool of candidates. Drug testing can cost up to $42 per employee, according to OHS Inc., which conducts drug testing in all 50 states. The savings from removing these tests can be reinvested back into the company to strengthen drug training programs or other company initiatives, the Challenger firm notes.
“Turning a blind eye to marijuana usage may not be practical for every company in every industry or role. However, employers could miss out on exceptional talent due to their use of a substance that is increasingly becoming acceptable and legal,” says Challenger.