According to a Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index Analysis that was published on May 18, post-accident workplace drug testing hit an all-time high in 2022. Last year, 7.3% workforce drug urine samples contained cannabis, in comparison to 6.7% of workers in 2021. Quest Diagnostics states that it has recorded a steady rise in post-accident cannabis positivity since 2012, with a 204.2% increase in workers testing positive for cannabis over the past 10 years. Between 2002-2009, post-accident positive test results had decreased.
Katie Mueller, National Safety Council senior program manager, said in a press release that the rise in legalization corresponds to an increase in workplace accidents. “Intoxicating cannabis products, including marijuana, can have a major impact on safety at work and have been proven to slow reaction time, impact memory and impair skills essential to driving. State legalization of the drug creates new challenges for employers,” said Mueller. “The Quest data provide compelling evidence that increased use of cannabis products by employees can contribute to greater risk for injuries in the workplace. It is imperative employers take the proper steps to create and maintain a policy that addresses cannabis use, build a safety-focused culture and educate the workforce to keep all workers safe on and off the job.”
The report states that cannabis was the main reason that workers’s drug tests have been positive, but other substances such as amphetamines have also contributed to the increase, with cannabis increasing by 10.3% and amphetamines increasing by 15.4%. In 2022, the most common industries that saw a rise in positive workplace drug tests were Accommodation and Food Services (7%), Retail Trade (7.7%), and Finance and Insurance (3.6%).
Keith Ward, Quest Diagnostics General Manager and Vice President for Employer Solutions,
“Our 2022 Quest Diagnostics analysis shows that the overall U.S. workforce positivity rate continued to be at a historically elevated level in 2022, even as much of the nation’s workforce returned to the office post-pandemic,” said Ward. “This historic rise seems to correspond with sharp increases in positivity for marijuana in both pre-employment and post-accident drug tests, suggesting that changing societal attitudes about marijuana may be impacting workplace behaviors and putting colleagues at risk. The increase in amphetamines positivity is also notable, given the addictive potential and health risks associated with this class of drugs.”
While safety is of the utmost importance in any workplace, the Quest Diagnostic data does not address how cannabis can remain in a person’s system for weeks after consumption, long after the effects have faded. With the rise in cannabis legalization, many industries are becoming more understanding of how cannabis is being commonly used as a relaxation aide, as well as treatment for common conditions like anxiety, depression, and more.
In February 2021, the Biden Administrations announced a new policy that would allow applicants to be hired even if they had previously consumed cannabis. “The White House’s policy will maintain the absolute highest standards for service in government that the President expects from his administration, while acknowledging the reality that state and local marijuana laws have changed significantly across the country in recent years,” the policy stated.
In September 2022, New Jersey regulators issued employment guidance for cannabis rules in the workplace, which “is meant to support employers’ right to create and maintain safe work environments, and to affirm employees’ right to due process.”
Additionally, a Canada-based study from 2020 found no association with cannabis use and increased workplace injuries. It analyzed 136,536 workers, 2,577 of whom experienced a work-related injury within the last 12 months, and only 4% stated that they were cannabis users during that time frame.