Tag: legalization

U.S. Workers Use Cannabis More, but Opiates Less

Reefer Madness prohibitionists are clinging to a new report detailing how more workers in the United States are using cannabis than ever before to criticize the passage of medical and legalization laws. In actuality, the report has great news contained in it and it demonstrates that most employers don’t need to prohibit cannabis use off the job, a growing trend among American employers.

As The Wall Street Journal reported:

“The percentage of working Americans testing positive for drugs climbed last year, particularly for marijuana, according to a new report, indicating employee drug use was on the rise just as the coronavirus pandemic created new stresses.

“Overall, the proportion of U.S. workers who tested positive for drugs in urine in 2019 rose to 4.5%, the highest level in 16 years, according to Quest Diagnostics Inc., one of the largest drug-testing laboratories in the U.S., which analyzed approximately nine million tests last year of employers.

“But the greatest jump has been in workers testing positive for marijuana, which climbed 11% in 2019 in the general workforce from the year before and 29% since 2015. In that four-year span, the number of states that legalized marijuana for recreational use grew to 11 from four, plus the District of Columbia.”

It’s positive news that the use of some dangerously fatal drugs has actually decreased the last few years. The use of more addictive and potentially fatal narcotics such as opiates fell 19 percent in 2019 from the year before and 49 percent since 2015. Usage rates for heroin dropped by a third from 2018 and halved since its peak in 2015. As NPR reported, opiate use has decreased in states that have legalized medicinal cannabis.

Also, fewer employers are actually testing for cannabis. Across the nation, 3% fewer employers are checking for cannabis while that number rose to 6% in states that have fully legalized cannabis. With drug tests recognizing inactive metabolites, instead of whether someone is actually impaired, it’s time that more employers stop this discriminatory practice, especially in non-safety-sensitive jobs. It’s great that we have stopped arresting and prosecuting cannabis in legal states, but it is important that employment fairness laws get enacted as well.

We Need a Medical Cannabis Patients Bill of Rights

It is easy to see that our nation is moving towards a more sane cannabis policy, but it is still moving too slowly for millions of people. Yes, cannabis is legal for all adults in several states and a majority now allow medical, these laws primarily only protect law-abiding citizens from criminal punishment. Too many folks are still experiencing discrimination in the workplace or face the possibility of losing custody of the children because laws ending criminal penalties aren’t fully protecting those that utilize cannabis. Most importantly, we need to protect patients that use cannabis medicinally.

A medical cannabis patients bill of rights has been filed in Florida, and every state needs to adopt similar legislation, albeit we need even more protections. The Orlando Weekly reports:

The purpose of the legislation is to protect employees and job applicants from punishment for using medical marijuana, unless their job includes safety-sensitive job duties.

“We must do our part to ensure that their use of safe and effective medicine will not impede their right to work,” Berman stated in a press release regarding the Medical Marijuana Employee Protection Act.

The measures would require the employer to provide written notice within five days of a positive test result to give employees and job applicants a chance to explain their results. According to Berman, employers would still be able to enforce a zero-tolerance, drug-free workplace, as the legislation allows for termination of employees whose performance and safety are affected by the drug.

In addition to workplace issues, medical cannabis patients need protections for housing, child custody, and medical decisions. We have made great strides in ending the persecution, prosecution, and stigmatization of the cannabis community recently, but we still have a lot of work to do as fighting for liberty and equality doesn’t stop when states legalize the use of cannabis.

Feature photo credit: Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance