As Michigan Changes Employee Drug Screening Rules, Employers Should Take Note
Has the nationwide movement towards cannabis legalization reached a tipping point? As states and municipalities change their rules about employee drug screening, the answer increasingly seems to be "yes." Not only is legal marijuana likely here to stay in the many states where such laws now exist, but its social acceptance continues on an upward trend, too. As a result, could it be time for employers to start rethinking their policies about testing for marijuana?
Recent changes to regulations in Michigan could be an important bellwether, especially when taken together with shifting stances nationwide.
Outlining the Changes to Michigan's Laws
Following a unanimous vote by the Michigan Civil Service Commission, applicants for jobs with the state will no longer need to submit to pre-employment drug screening that tests for marijuana. (Other types of drug tests, such as those for cocaine and methamphetamine, will still be a part of the process.) With exceptions for job roles such as law enforcement and those regulated by the DOT, prospective state workers won't need to worry about their off-duty usage of marijuana. Recreational cannabis has been legal in Michigan since late 2019.
Previously, a positive drug test meant a mandatory three-year disqualification period from state jobs. With the passage of the new rules, applicants disqualified for cannabis usage in the past three years will have the opportunity to re-apply right away. Michigan is far from the only state making such changes.
More States See Value in Dropping Cannabis Testing
Some major states have already moved to enact big policy changes about the pre-employment drug test—but not only for state employment. In California, Washington, and New York, private employers can't take adverse action against someone who uses marijuana off-duty. That provision is true for both existing employees and new applicants, effectively rendering cannabis testing illegal for most employment purposes.
Even so, not all states have made such changes, and even the cannabis sector itself has grappled with these issues. This creates some challenging questions for businesses that recruit across state lines and operate in multiple areas.
Should You Alter Your Policies Now?
Except where states have already enacted changes to employment law about cannabis, it remains an employer's choice as to who they hire based on testing results. However, the writing seems to be on the wall: eventually, the rules in places such as California could become the norm nationwide. Is now the time to create more cannabis-friendly screening policies?
It could be—and it could help businesses save time and money on testing. There is even the potential for attracting new qualified applicants who might have stayed away because of drug testing in the past. As state laws evolve and change, getting ahead of the regulations before they appear could help businesses with recruitment, retention, and compliance.
Drug testing as a whole isn't going away any time soon, but employee drug screening focused on catching marijuana users might be a thing of the past sooner rather than later.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments