More U.S. workers are testing positive for illicit drugs than at any time in the last 12 years, say new data from Quest Diagnostics Inc., one of the largest workplace-testing labs in the nation, the Wall Street Journal reports. The number of workers who tested positive for marijuana rose by 4 percent; positive results for other drugs also rose. The increases come against a backdrop of more liberal marijuana state laws and an apparent resurgence in the use of drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. Last year, 4.2 percent of the 8.9 million urine tests Quests conducted for employers came back positive, up from 4 percent in 2015. It is the highest rate since 2004, when 4.5 percent of tests showed evidence of potentially illicit drug use.
Marijuana remains the most commonly used drug among U.S. workers and was identified in 2.5 percent of urine tests for the general workforce in 2016, up from 2.4 percent a year earlier. Workers in states that permit recreational marijuana use appear to be picking up the habit. The number of workers testing positive in Colorado rose 11 percent; in Washington—9 percent. The rates of increase in these states, the first to legalize pot, were more than double the increase nationwide in 2016. Employers in Colorado and Washington can fire or choose not to hire someone who tests positive for marijuana despite the state laws.