Positive drug tests for employees hit 16-year high as marijuana legalization expands: report

As recreational marijuana legalization has expanded to 11 states plus the District of Columbia, positive workplace drug tests have reportedly climbed to a 16-year high.

Positive test rates rose nearly 4.5 percent for the U.S. workforce in 2019, according to one of the largest drug-testing laboratories Quest Diagnostics, which sampled 9 million tests last year for employers, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Positive marijuana urine tests saw the most significant climb, rising 11 percent from 2018 and climbing 29 percent since 2015.

Experts say the issue could be compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, which initial data suggested has led to a rise in substance abuse and drug-related deaths throughout the United States.

Barry Sample, Quest’s senior director for science and technology, said, “There is concern about the potential impact that COVID-19 is having on depression and people’s substance use patterns,” adding that the rate of positive detections was already trending upward before the pandemic started.

In addition to marijuana, positive results for drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine have also risen over the years.

Meanwhile, more employers are starting to take a hands-off approach when it comes to testing for pot. The number of urine drug tests that included marijuana declined 3 percent in the past five years and was down 6 percent in states that have completely legalized the substance. [Read More @ The Hill]

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