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Is Drug Testing For Weed Worth It For Your Company? (1 of 3)

Written by: Rikka Brandon
Published on: Jul 17, 2017



Drug image


As a recruiter for 15+ years, believe me when I say I have heard every silly strategy for weeding out candidates and seeing the “real” person prior to hiring. Truthfully though, most people who use these tactics are the same ones desperately trying to find more qualified candidates.

Typically, companies aren’t wading through 50 phenomenal applicants for a position. They are happy to have 5 “pretty good” people apply. If you aren’t turning away qualified candidates, you probably need to work on filling your talent funnels before thinking up more ways to eliminate people.

Where am I going with this?


Is testing for weed making you lose the war for talent?

I’ll be the first to admit I see the value in drug testing - especially in certain roles, industries, and companies. There is evidence and validation to support the benefits. Heck, I’ve even written a blog post about it!  

However, when I wrote that post, there wasn’t a single state in the nation with legalized marijuana. Today, half of our states have legalized use for medicinal purposes. Plus, seven states and Washington D.C. have made recreational pot use legal. Obviously, laws and restrictions are differ based on your location, line of business and the current political landscape. However, if you get federal funding, employ certain safety-focused roles or meet other requirements, you are still subject to DOT regulations, no matter what the legal status of pot is in your state.

So, if your drug testing includes marijuana, should you stop or make adjustments?


4 Things To Consider

  1. You probably aren’t legally required to drug test employees. Ronald Reagan signed an executive order in 1988 leading to legislation requiring federal employees and some contractors to be tested. Some organizations believed widespread testing would become mandatory and a booming drug test industry came to life. However, the average U.S. employer isn’t required to test for drugs.
  2. Testing doesn’t stop weed use; it only shapes where people apply & work. According to this ABC News report, more than 50% of adults in the U.S. have smoked pot and find it socially acceptable. Taking a hard stance means you could be excluding half of your potential talent pool as qualified candidates pull themselves out or don’t apply when they realize your policies.
  3. Testing isn’t fail-proof... and marijuana could be the least of your worries. Drug testing doesn’t test for whether the drug is currently being used. Also, you have to determine what substances to test for in a rapidly evolving drug landscape. Since pot has a longer half-life than most drugs, it shows up long after it’s been used whereas cocaine and methamphetamines can be undetectable in one to five days after use. So, are you truly worried about the occasional joint toker or a person returning from a 420 trip to Colorado? Plus, consider how job performance and safety are impacted by employees feeling the after-effects of too much alcohol the night before. To be effective, you need to test frequently, randomly and rigorously. All of which equals big dollar signs for your organization.  Is the ROI worth it?
  4. Pot may not be causing your company any issues. Drug testing is an industry designed to make money, just like selling cars or big pharma. So, it benefits them to promote studies and information about the equally evil effects of all classified drugs. It’s no wonder there haven’t been an equal number of studies or dollars spent promoting whether pot is actually detrimental. It has shown some remarkable, potential medical benefits in some instances, and there’s at least one study questioning all the negative claims surrounding marijuana.

I am not advocating marijuana use and I am not an attorney. I’m definitely not telling you to change your current policies - or let it all hang out, especially if you have safety considerations or it isn’t the right move for your brand or culture. You don’t want to go from not having enough qualified candidates to injuries or other issues.

The best thing is to spend time evaluating if and how your business might be negatively affected by your testing policy. Then, decide if reviewing or revamping your policy is a responsible move that would produce tangible benefits for your organization. If so, set up a meeting with your legal team or advisors and dive into your industry’s responsibilities and requirements and if it is appropriate to work on a new drug testing policy.


Want to know more?  Check out these resources:

DOT Procedures for drug and alcohol testing

Office of Drug & Alcohol Policy & Compliance

Should Marijuana Be Removed From Pre-Employment Drug Screens?  

Workplace Testing in the Era of Legal Marijuana, Institute for Behavior and Health (2015)


Rikka Brandon is the author of the best-selling book Hire Power: Everything Entrepreneurs Need To Know To Hire Awesome People. She’s the creator of the Hire Power Program, an online program designed to help small businesses build a rock-solid recruiting strategy and stop settling when they hire. She’s the Founder of and  Building Gurus. Rikka is the go-to girl for growth-minded entrepreneurs and forward-thinking business leaders and is considered as the USA’s Top Hiring Expert for Small Businesses.