Last month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a labor report that documented drug-testing rates across various industries. Data from the federal report revealed that for the first time in 25 years, workers were asked about the frequency of workplace drug tests. It revealed that drug testing had dropped and some workplaces had either removed or delayed testing their workers for drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past 25 years, medical marijuana has been legalized in almost three-quarters of all U.S. states while the adult use of marijuana is allowed in one-third of the states. Eighty percent of the states where marijuana is legal recorded the lowest establishment drug testing.
The report points out that fewer drug tests have been administered in states where marijuana is legal. Workers in transportation, warehousing and other safety-sensitive industries experience more frequent tests. According to the survey, more than one-half of the establishments in those industries carried out drug tests in contrast to workers in industries such as the arts, recreation, finance, education and hospitality, which have fewer tests.
In a 1996 survey, 30% of the workers were tested for drugs and 14% for alcohol. The numbers appear to have decreased in the latest survey with 16% of the workers saying that they were tested for either drugs and/or alcohol.
The new survey was done online and sent to more than 300,000 business establishments. It included questions that asked about alcohol testing and whether workplaces were testing applicants and workers during the pandemic. According to Michael Dalton, a BLS research economist, the questions were included after media reports highlighted that companies had suspended their drug-testing mandates. The report found that only 2% of workplaces had suspended testing while 7.9% suspended testing but still tested current employees and applicants.
Across industries, the utilities sector experienced the highest reduction of establishment drug screening during the pandemic. However, the industry has not completely scrapped testing. Across company sizes, smaller companies carried out fewer screenings. An estimated 12.9% of companies with fewer than 20 workers carried out regular tests. Meanwhile, the number grows with companies with 100 to 500 employees (56.7%) and those with more than 500 employees (69.9%).
It remains unclear whether the decrease in drug screenings will persist in the future. Dalton stated that work changes resulting from COVID might disappear or have a complete turnaround. For example, 20% of establishments are looking to increase remote work in the future. As more employees start working remotely and drug testing reduces, chances are high that more people will feel freer to consume marijuana products from state-legal sources such as American Cannabis Partners.
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