Employers are struggling to hire workers in a tightening U.S. job market. Marijuana is now legal in nine states and Washington, D.C., meaning more than one in five U.S. adults can eat, drink, smoke or vape as they please. The result is the slow decline of pre-employment drug tests, which for decades had been a requirement for new recruits in industries ranging from manufacturing to finance, Bloomberg reports.
Excellence Health Inc., a Las Vegas-based health care company with 6,000 employees, no longer tests people coming to work for the firm’s pharmaceutical side. “We don’t care what people do in their free time,” said Liam Meyer, a spokesperson. “We want to help these people, instead of saying: ‘Hey, you can’t work for us because you used a substance.’”
Last month, AutoNation Inc., the largest U.S. auto dealer, said it would no longer refuse applicants who tested positive for weed. The Denver Post, owned by Digital First Media, ended pre-employment drug testing for all non-safety sensitive positions in 2016.
So far, companies in states that have legalized either recreational or medicinal marijuana are leading the way on dropping drug tests. A survey last year by the Mountain States Employers Council of 609 Colorado employers found that the share of companies testing for marijuana use fell to 66 percent, down from 77 percent the year before.
In surveys by the Federal Reserve last year, employers cited an inability by applicants to pass drug tests among reasons for difficulties in hiring. Failed tests reached an all-time high in 2017, says Quest Diagnostics Inc. That’s likely to get worse as more people partake in state-legalized cannabis.
“The benefits of at least reconsidering the drug policy on behalf of an employer would be pretty high,” said Jeremy Kidd, a professor at Mercer Law School. “A blanket prohibition can’t possibly be the most economically efficient policy.”