More American companies dropping cannabis from drug testing

Nov 18, 2021

In recent months, numerous U.S. companies have stopped testing for the presence of cannabis due to the reduced labour market and the increasing legalization of cannabis across the country.

Specifically, Inc. has changed its drug testing policy, no longer conducting cannabis screenings.

“In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for |cannabis] use,” said Dave Clark, Amazon worldwide consumer chief executive officer in a released statement. “However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course.”

Amazon has gone so far as to reinstate the employment eligibility of previously terminated employees and applicants who failed the random or pre-employment cannabis screenings.

Due to the increasing legalization of cannabis across numerous U.S. states, many companies operating in several states face significant challenges when implementing central drug-use policies, which are further aggravated by the current labour shortages. Furthermore, many companies are having issues recruiting and retaining employees, particularly younger workers.

The U.S. Senate’s has proposed year fiscal 2022 general government appropriations bill that recommends the Office of Personnel Management to review its policies on hiring and firing individuals whose private use of cannabis is allowed under state law.

Moreover, the state of New York has acted to ban testing employees for cannabis, after its labour department issued guidance on Oct. 8 stating that employers can’t test employees for cannabis use, unless an existing exemption permits them to do so. In addition, the guidance said that New York employers “are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on the employee’s use of cannabis outside of the workplace, outside of work hours, and without use of the employer’s equipment or property.”

“Some of my clients that have removed [cannabis] from the testing panel, they’ve done so because they need workers and they don’t want to screen those people out” amid a tight labor market, said Denise Elliott, an employment lawyer from McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC management-side employment lawyer.

Eliminating pre-employment cannabis testing will allow Amazon to expand its applicant pool as the company grows, said Beth Galetti, Amazon senior vice president of human resources in a September statement. According to Galetti, pre-screening applicants disproportionately and negatively impacts people of colour, also raising equity concerns.

Amazon’s move to adjust its testing policy reflects the compliance complexities companies operating in several states face when implementing a central drug-use policy. The challenge is exacerbated by the current labor shortage. Companies impose drug-use policies to help keep workplaces safe. But many companies are having difficulty recruiting and retaining employees, particularly younger workers.

One of the current challenges of cannabis screening is the lack of accuracy in determining when a worker or applicant used cannabis.

“We aren’t aware of any technology that does a great job” of distinguishing between “whether somebody has used a legal substance—or is currently impaired by it,” said Pat Devaney, Illinois AFL-CIO secretary treasurer. “I think that presents a challenge in tackling the issue in some of our collective bargaining agreements.”