Drug policies, testing methods adapt to growth in cannabis use

Editor’s note: This commentary is provided by the Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI) of Florida A&M University

Consider this hypothetical scenario: Two weeks ago, during a vacation in California, you lawfully purchased and consumed marijuana intended for adult use. But now you are back at work in Florida, where recreational cannabis remains illegal, and you have been chosen for a random drug test by your employer.

It is highly likely that your past marijuana usage, although legal at the time, would be detected by urine and hair follicle tests. A urine analysis can find traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component in cannabis, for up to 30 days following marijuana consumption, while a hair follicle sample offers up to 90 days of potentially incriminating evidence. 

If your employer has a strict drug-free workplace policy, you could be fired regardless of the circumstances. The same consequence could happen even if you had legally used low-THC medical cannabis because employees with Florida medical marijuana cards are not protected by state law.  

According to drug testing expert Zathan Boutan, employees whose job roles pose safety risks, such as those working in law enforcement and transportation, are often subject to random drug testing as a condition of employment, unlike employees in desk-bound positions. 

“Oral fluid is one of the newer methodologies, and it goes back a day, possibly two if you’re a heavy user,” says Kelly Dobbins, who has 25 years of experience in administering drug and alcohol tests for public and private employers, courts and the federal government. 

One commonly observed and blatantly obvious tactic individuals employ is intentionally showing up after the scheduled test date, allowing them more time to cleanse their system. Both Ms. Dobbins and Mr. Boutan have stopped attempts to use concealed drug-free urine samples. A particularly daring method used to cheat a urine test involves obtaining a urine sample from a non-user.

And then there are people who just come right out and ask how they can pass a drug test.


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