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May 31, 2016

Marijuana poses challenges for employee drug tests

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Essential question

How should legislators adapt the law to reflect changes in society?


Employers across the country are finding it difficult to hire potential job candidates who are willing and able to pass drug tests, according to a New York Times report by Jackie Calmes.

While the problem hits unskilled or low-skilled workers more, it also impacts higher-skilled jobs, Calmes said. She said marijuana remains the biggest culprit for candidates not passing drug tests.

Drug testing potential employees has become more common in the last 20 years, which raises a challenge for states that have recently legalized the use of recreational and medicinal marijuana. For example, in Colorado, potential employees could still fail the drug test and not be offered the job, even though their marijuana use is legal, according to Calmes.

Although cultural attitudes towards marijuana use may be shifting in the U.S., the type of work continues to affect whether or not a company has a drug testing policy, Calmes said. Under 1991 federal law, a person who has a job that is “safety oriented,” like trucking, requires drug testing.


Key terms

white collar—relating to or having the kind of jobs that are done in an office instead of a factory, warehouse

blue collar— of or relating to manual work or workers, particularly in industry

ubiquitous—present or found everywhere

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. Why do some employers drug test job candidates?
  2. Do you think employers should drug test prospective employees?
  3. Are there certain jobs in which potential workers should be given drug tests?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. What are the challenges with drug testing in a time where more states are passing laws legalizing recreational and medicinal marijuana?
  2. Were you surprised to hear that marijuana use was the number one drug complaint among employers? Explain.
  3. Do you think drug tests should be a major consideration in hiring practices? Why or why not?
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