According to Friday’s federal report on non-farm payrolls, the unemployment rate in the United States has dropped to 3.9%. Among other things that means its getting harder for employers to find employees and that difficulty is leading to a drop in testing potential employees for marijuana use.
Even the Trump administration has mellowed somewhat. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta told a congressional hearing last month that “with all these Americans looking for work … are we aligning our … drug testing policies with what’s right for the workforce?”
An AP story at cannabis information website Leafly.com, a Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 57% of companies conduct drug tests but there is no recent data on how many no longer test for marijuana.
In the nine states and the District of Columbia where recreational marijuana use is legal, jobs that demand lots of people–hotels, resorts, home healthcare, some warehouse and assembly work–are among the first to stop testing for marijuana although most continue to test for cocaine, opiates, and other drugs.
That does not mean that workers are safe from being fired for drug use, including marijuana use. In Colorado employers have the right to fire employees who test positive. Maine has become the first state to prohibit companies from firing or not hiring someone for marijuana use outside of work hours.
The main exceptions to the change in testing requirements are jobs with the federal government, regulated industries like airlines and railroads, and jobs where safe operation of machinery is required.
None of this translates in public announcements from the companies that have relaxed their position on marijuana use. AutoNation is one of only a few major companies to have publicly declared that it has stopped testing for marijuana and spokesman Marc Cannon told the AP that other business leaders say they are doing the same thing, but don’t want to say so publicly.
Will all this lead the Trump administration and especially long-time marijuana foe, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to move off the dime when it comes to removing marijuana from the list of dangerous drugs? Both Republicans and Democrats are positioning themselves as supporters of relaxing marijuana laws as the country heads into the November elections. Of course the two parties won’t co-operate on reaching an agreement because that’s not how politics works any more.
But as more businesses adopt a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude toward marijuana use and testing, the government will sooner or later have to change its laws regarding cannabis. They are getting in the way of making profits and we can’t have that.