The legalization of recreational and medical marijuana in more and more states is posing a quandary for employers. Traditional methods of drug testing can determine if someone has tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the marijuana ingredient that causes a “high” - in their system, but not when they ingested it. THC can be found for weeks in the blood and urine of regular users.
In states where marijuana is now legal, its use by workers during their non-work hours may not be a factor in their employment status – unless it interferes with workplace safety because it was used just prior to or during a shift. How prevalent is marijuana use among U.S. workers? According to an April 2019 Wall Street Journal article, it is at a 14-year high.
Now, several companies are on the verge of releasing marijuana breathalyzers they say will accurately show whether someone smoked marijuana within a three-hour of being tested. The devices will enable employers to ensure that workers who perform hazardous tasks – like operating heavy machinery, driving big rigs or working at height in construction - are not high on the job. Employees who legally smoked marijuana the day before the test will not, presumably, be penalized.
In addition to having a significant impact in the workplace, the products are expected to be used during by law enforcement officers during traffic stops to detect drugged driving. At present, many drivers suspected of drugged driving are taken to a hospital for a blood draw in order to be tested for drugs – an expensive and time-consuming process. Alternatively, saliva samples are taken with swabs.