More American workers tested positive for drugs in 2021 than in any year during the last two decades. The annual drug testing index released by Quest Diagnostics shows that marijuana usage is now a major driving factor.
4.6% Of American Workers Tested Positive for Drugs in 2021
Quest’s drug testing index reported that 4.6% of American workers tested positive for drugs in 2021. This is 0.2% higher than in 2020 and is also the highest rate recorded in the last twenty years. The report attributed an increase in marijuana use as the driving force behind the rise.
Quest Diagnostics based its report on nearly 9 million urine drug tests collected between January and December 2021.
In a news release, Quest Diagnostics said the report revealed several trends. This includes increased drug positivity rates in the safety-sensitive workforce such as public safety and national security.
The report also said that more individuals tested positive for drugs when checked after a workplace accident. Barry Sample, Quest’s senior science consultant, wrote the release.
Increase in Marijuana Use
Increased marijuana use among US workers also became noted in 2021. In 2020, 3.1% of workers tested positive for marijuana, but this shot up to 3.9% in 2021.
Quest also noted that the positive tests for marijuana in the general US workforce increased by 50% since 2017.
Meanwhile, Sample said that the shifting attitude toward marijuana led some employers to stop testing for the drug.
Meanwhile, laws prohibit some companies in certain states to factor marijuana test results in hiring decisions. Sample added that they’re witnessing year-over-year declines in recreational use states.
Tests to screen for marijuana dropped the most in 2021. Between 2021 and 2020, tests declined by 6.7%. In states that declared marijuana use legal for recreational use, tests dropped by 10%.
In addition, Keith Ward, GM, and VP of Quest said that employers now face challenges in recruiting and retaining talent.
They also remain under pressure to maintain safe and engaging work environments that offer positive mental and physical well-being.
The report “raises important questions about what it means to be an employer committed to employee health and safety. Eager to attract talent, employers may be tempted to lower their standards,” he said.
However, this can increase “drug-related impairment and worksite accidents that put other employees and the general public in harms' way.”
Congress Poised To Pass Legislature Decriminalizing Marijuana At the Federal Level
In addition, Sample noted that some of their customers had difficulty finding qualified workers who can pass a marijuana screening test.
The rise in positive tests comes as the House of Representatives is set to pass legislation to legalize marijuana federally.
However, 18 states already beat Congress to the punch. These 18 states already legalized the drug for recreational use.
However, Sample urges workers to remain aware of their responsibilities. Workers should realize that federal law will require some employers to still test for marijuana use. “And if they use marijuana, they can still lose their jobs,” warned Sample.
Workers who use drugs before or during work hours can still cause problems in the workplace. They can be “dangerous to co-workers, the general public, and themselves.”
Watch the Manufacturing Talk Radio video discussing that in companies where testing occurs, drug use drops:
What do you think of the increasing rates of workers who tested positive for drugs? Will this be a problem in the future for employers? What should the government do about the increased rates of drug positivity?
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