Made in Highmerica – Positive Cannabis Drug Tests in the American Workforce Spike to a 25 Year High

May 26, 2023 ·

According to a recent analysis, the year 2022 witnessed the highest level of positive marijuana urine tests after workplace accidents in 25 years.

According to an analysis by Quest Diagnostics released last Thursday, the percentage of the general U.S. workforce who tested positive for marijuana in their urine after having an accident at work rose to 7.3% in 2017. It was 6.7% in 2021, a tad less.  Remember, these are only tests done after a worker had an accident, if you didn’t have an accident, and were high on cannabis, it would not be recorded in this survey.

Over 10.6 million drug test results were analysed in total by Quest Diagnostics. Drug testing on urine, hair, and oral fluid produced those results between January and December 2022.

Impact of Legalised Cannabis

There are now 23 states where marijuana is legal for recreational use, with Colorado and Washington leading the way for the first 11 years. California, Arizona, and Massachusetts are just a few of the states that have done this. D.C. has additionally made it legal.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the medication is currently allowed for medicinal use in more than 30 states.

According to research by Quest Diagnostics, 4.3% of the general U.S. workforce will test positive for marijuana in 2022. It had recorded 3.9% the year before; therefore, this was a rise.  Keep in mind, major employers like Amazon and Apple have stopped testing for cannabis use, switching from a 4-panel drug test at the time of hiring, to a 3-panel drug test, eliminating the marijuana test at the time of highering.

The investigation also looked at how the legality status of marijuana in each state affected how positive worker marijuana tests varied between states.

According to the Quest Diagnostics Senior Director of Science for Employer Solutions, Dr Suhash Harwani, “States that have legalised medical and recreational cannabis consumption exhibit higher positivity rates than the national average in the general U.S. workforce.” The optimism percentages in states without legalised marijuana tend to be lower than the national norms.

In states that allow medical use, 3.9% of the total U.S. workforce tested positive for marijuana. According to Quest Diagnostics, the rate was 5.7% in places where it is legal for people to use it recreationally. The rate was 3.1% in states excluding both.

The data shows that each of the three categories experienced year-over-year growth.

Statement of Analysis

Quest Diagnostics identified a rise in the percentage of general U.S. workers testing positive for cannabis and amphetamines in urine tests. The rate for amphetamines specifically increased from 1.3% in 2021 to 1.5% in 2022.

The analysis revealed that the overall drug positivity rate, standing at 5.7%, experienced a slight uptick compared to the previous year. Dr Suhash Harwani further highlighted the consistent upward trend in workforce drug positivity across industries and various drug categories based on year-over-year and five-year data. In light of the mounting scientific evidence demonstrating the potential risks of marijuana to mental and physical health, employers are encouraged to consider these findings as a warning sign for employee health, wellness, and safety.

Quest Diagnostics’ investigation encompassed more than 9 million urine drug tests conducted on the general workforce and the “federally mandated, safety-sensitive” workforce, with 4.6% yielding positive results. Notably, this percentage remained unchanged from year to year, as indicated by the study.

Over the years, there has been increasing discussion about the practice of businesses carrying out drug tests on their employees.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reported that 18% of all Americans admitted to consuming marijuana at least once in 2019.

According to a Gallup poll from November, the percentage of Americans who answered “yes” when asked whether marijuana should be legalized has been stable for three years, with 68% saying that in 2022, 2021, and 2020.

Despite a noticeable increase in marijuana usage among employees, data from Quest show that overall drug use among all types of U.S. employees remained stable at 4.6% in 2022. However, the positive rates for 2021 and 2022 are the greatest since 2001. Between 2021 and 2022, the prevalence of amphetamine usage increased by 0.5 percentage points to 1.5%, with 2.1% being the highest among workers in education services.

Testing by Quest does not distinguish between amphetamines that are legitimately prescribed, like Adderall, and illicit forms and prohibited applications of that particular class of medications.

Given the possibility for addiction and the health concerns linked with this class of medicines, the rise in amphetamine positive is also noteworthy, according to Ward.

Americans Purchasing More Legal Cannabis

Research in 2022 found that Americans spend more money on legal cannabis than they do on chocolate, artisan beer, and topical painkillers combined.

According to an estimate from MJBizDaily, Americans spent about $30 billion on legal marijuana in 2022, compared to only about $20 billion on chocolate.

The survey said that sales of “feel-good” products, including beer, narcotic prescriptions, and topical pain relievers, were outstripped by purchases of cannabis.

Despite the fact that marijuana is now legal for purchase, sales nevertheless lagged behind the tobacco sector, which grossed $53 billion last year despite a continuous drop.

By 2028, sales of legal cannabis might total $57 billion, according to the analysis.

The statistics were released more than ten years after voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot measures in the 2012 general election to make their states the first in the country to legalise marijuana.

In more than 20 states, including Washington, D.C., marijuana is completely legal, while 18 states permit its use for medical purposes. Twelve states still consider it unlawful.

These studies and statistics are consistent with previous events because more people are now consuming cannabis due to rising sales and legalisation.

Bottom Line

Quest Diagnostics analysis revealed a notable surge in positive marijuana urine tests following workplace accidents in 2022, reaching the highest level in 25 years. The data indicates an upward trend in cannabis use among employees, with states that have legalised recreational and medical marijuana showing higher positivity rates than the national average. The overall drug positivity rate, including amphetamines, also experienced a slight increase, highlighting the importance of considering these findings as a warning sign for employee health and safety.  These studies and statistics reinforce the enduring impact of legalisation on consumption patterns and the need for businesses to adapt their workplace drug testing practices accordingly. (Full Story)

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