Cannabis reform continues to sweep the nation, taking old prejudices and stereotypes along with it. Legal adult recreational use of cannabis now legal for over 20 percent of adults. However, this kind of major cultural shift can come up against problems of misunderstanding. Like, where adults can smoke weed legally just like they drink a beer or sip a cocktail? Could you lose your job for smoking legal cannabis? Too often, still, the answer is yes.
One of the biggest misunderstandings still plaguing cannabis legalization is the issue of intoxication. How high are you, really, when you smoke? And how much do the psychoactive effects of cannabis impact a person’s ability to drive, operate machinery, or maintain a safe workspace? Drug tests have been around forever. Test positive for marijuana in a state where it’s still a crime, and you’ll likely lose your job.
Cannabis Drug Tests Are Unreliable
It’s a question that’s becoming more complex for employers and workplace regulators. It is often the case that federal prohibitions create complications in weed-legal states, and employment laws are no different. That alone is enough to motivate an employer to fire someone who tested positive for cannabis.
Now, the question of actually being impaired at work is one thing. You wouldn’t want someone coming off a bender to operate a crane or a forklift or handle important documents. But you can’t get fired for coming to work with a hangover. And you wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if you came in to work Wednesday talking about how buzzed you were last Saturday.
And that’s the problem with testing for cannabis. Currently, tests don’t tell whether you are impaired or not. Instead, they only show how much trace THC is in your bloodstream. Critics, citing multiple studies, have demonstrated how the mere fact of having THC in the blood doesn’t mean someone is high.
At best, it indicates they consumed cannabis recently, and even that is unreliable. Besides, why would that matter for a medical marijuana patient or a legal adult recreational user?
In more technical terms, tests are unable to measure “active intoxication.” But they do measure “THC metabolites,” the byproducts of THC your body absorbed when you consumed cannabis. And those metabolites can stick around for up to a month!
Punished For Smoking Legal Cannabis Off The Clock
No one thinks someone is still high weeks after they smoke a joint or chow down on an edible, but that’s exactly what most drug tests are able to test for. But the negative stigma of “testing positive” for cannabis seems to make employers think their employees are unreliable, unsafe, and poor performers.
And bosses have definitely fired people for testing positive for cannabis. But that hasn’t stopped ex-employees from suing companies over the matter. Medical patients, especially, are at risk of termination for cannabis use. Unfortunately, medical patients who have challenged their terminations in court have lost every time so far.
But just because an employer has the right to fire someone who tests positive for cannabis doesn’t mean that they are required to. While some businesses may have “zero tolerance” policies for pot, many companies are beginning to treat it like alcohol. Leave the fun at home, and don’t let it negatively affect your performance at work.