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According to a new study by Confirm BioSciences, a drug screening equipment manufacturer, employers in 2020 must deal with new compliance issues and a need for greater flexibility in drug screening: New drug laws, the legalization/decriminalization of marijuana and other factors have muddled the landscape for both employees and employers 

New Drug Laws and Mandates 

Drug screening is currently a patchwork of factors that vary significantly by company, industry, jurisdiction and employment status. In states where recreational marijuana use is legal, businesses ought to set drug policies that match the nature of the work they do. 

There is some confusion on how to test in states where cannabis use is legal. In some jurisdictions, marijuana is only legal for medical reasons. In states like Colorado and in some municipalities, recreational use is legal. Furthermore, federal law explicitly forbids marijuana, and this fact takes precedence in some industries, companies and occupations. 

The Rise of Marijuana 

Research has shown that nearly 30 percent of adults in Colorado between the ages of 18 and 25 smoke marijuana at least once a month. In the face of such widespread use, many companies in Colorado and other states are transitioning away from marijuana screening completely, particularly when a company’s target workforce is a younger demographic. On the other hand, some Colorado employers are continuing to screen, but with a narrow focus. 

Test Trends 

Employers have options when it comes to testing. There are three types of drug screening processes that are widely accepted: urine, oral fluid and hair. These choices offer various degrees of immediacy, use history and substance type capabilities. Companies looking to remain compliant can identify the screening process that suits their distinctive needs. 

For employers that aren’t interested in detecting drug use as far back as 10 to 12 weeks, oral fluid screening is a go-to option, as this test is effective for detecting recent ingestion of controlled substances. 

Despite their shorter window compared to urine and hair tests, oral fluid screening is admissible in most courts in cases involving wrongful termination and discrimination, as well as in criminal court. Only Maine, Vermont and Hawaii do not permit test results from oral fluid screens. 

When an Employee Appears to be on Drugs 

Given the increasing level of complexity, identifying a drug problem is best left to trained substance abuse counselors. However, there are certain work-related signs that employers should be on the lookout for.  Sudden mood swings happening on a daily basis, disheveled appearance, a precipitous drop-off in productivity and fracturing relationships with coworkers have all been associated with substance abuse problems and all are cause for concern, if only because of business reasons. 

Any potential signs of substance abuse should be documented. Having a list of specific incidents helps with confronting the employee and gives the confrontation a sense of objectivity. 

We Can Help Your Company Navigate Shifting HR Issues 

At Cornerstone, we work hand-in-glove with our clients to ensure they remain nimble in the face of shifting HR challenges. Please contact us today to find out how we can be your HR partner. 


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