Now That Marijuana is Legal in Michigan, Should Employers Relax Their Drug Screening Policies?

Michigan employers may wonder if they should relax their policies on employee drug testing with the Nov. 8, 2018 passage of Proposal 1, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. The act decriminalizes the possession and use of marijuana by adults ages 21 and older. In Michigan, marijuana is treated similarly to alcohol, and most employers do not allow workers to use either while on the job.

Since marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 narcotic under federal law, the federal government requires employee drug screenings for many companies and some specific industries, including utility companies such as DTE and Consumers Energy. However, beyond those companies under the directive of federal orders, employee drug testing is not required by law.

Still, some employers aren’t ready to welcome drug users into their organization, and as such, have drug screenings in place. Michigan law allows any employer the right to test job applicants and employees for drugs. Employers are encouraged to adopt workplace policies on drug and alcohol use and communicate those policies on an ongoing basis.

Drug testing failures on the rise

Drug testing failures for marijuana are on the rise nationally but are more pronounced in states that have legalized the recreational use of the drug. A 2018 study from Quest Diagnostics revealed that 4.2 percent of the U.S. workforce tested positive for illicit drugs, the highest rate since 2003. The increase was due to the use of marijuana and other drugs.

“As marijuana policy changes and employers consider strategies to protect their employees, customers, and the general public, employers should weigh the risks that drug use, including marijuana, poses to their business,” said Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics in a news release.

Employers should consider the consequences

Employers considering relaxing their drug screening policies should always consider the consequences. The fact that adults ages 21 and older are now permitted by law to possess and use marijuana products does not obligate employers to change their existing policies.

In fact, companies that rely on federal funding - including school districts, universities, banks, municipalities, and others – should keep their drug screening policies in place until the funding consequences for modifying the policies, if any, are fully known.

As you move forward under the new law, the attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio will help with reviewing your current policies, or drafting new policies, for your business or workplace.