More companies decide to stop screening new hires for marijuana

CHARLOTTE — As many employers have struggled to find workers, more companies are making the decision to stop drug screening new hires for marijuana.

By July 2023, 47% of Americans will live in a state where marijuana is legal for anyone over 21. Even more people live in places where it can be prescribed medicinally.

States legalizing marijuana is bringing the country near a tipping point, but federally, the drug is still illegal. That means people can be fired or denied a job if marijuana is found in their system.

A 33-year-old Charlotte woman who asked us not to show her face told Channel 9′s Evan Donovan it happened to her.

“I had been at college -- having a college experience -- and then I applied for a job at a jewelry store, and they drug tested me, and that prevented me from getting that job,” she said.

She walked away from that job and found another one, but she told Donovan she still smokes.

“When I smoked certain types of weed, I would feel so much more focused and I could hyper-fixate on what I need to get done,” she explained.

Quest Diagnostics, one of the nation’s largest drug testing companies, told the Wall Street Journal 4.6% of drug tests it conducted in 2021 came back positive for marijuana -- the biggest number in two decades.

The number of companies testing for marijuana dropped 10% in states where marijuana is legal, but it’s still illegal federally. Employment attorney Bernard Tisdale said that can put companies who want to stop testing for it in a tough spot.

“You go through your checklist: Safety-sensitive position? Do you have DOT responsibilities? Are you a federal contractor? What state are you in? What states are you going to operate in?” Tisdale said. “You may have headquarters in Charlotte, but operations in 40 other states.”

Tisdale said a few of his clients have stopped testing for marijuana, mainly because it made it tougher for them to hire people for low-skilled jobs. But even companies who don’t test pre-employment still have the right to test you in certain circumstances.

“You train your supervisors to be observant -- is someone slurring words, are they stumbling, are they showing some physical manifestation of being impaired?” he said.

Fewer companies seem to be testing for marijuana, yet Donovan couldn’t find any companies willing to go on camera and talk about why they don’t.

Amazon stopped testing for most positions other than drivers in 2021, saying it “disproportionately affected communities of color by stalling job placement and, by extension, economic growth, and we believe this inequitable treatment is unacceptable.”

Donovan asked all 17 of the Charlotte region’s Fortune 1000 companies whether they do pre-employment testing for marijuana. 4 out of the 5 who responded said they do:

  • Yes: Duke Energy, Coca-Cola Consolidated, JELD-WEN Holding, Domtar
  • No: Bank of America

There is certainly an overwhelming opinion from the public. According to a poll in October 2022 by Pew Research, 88% of Americans overwhelmingly support legalizing marijuana in some form.

(WATCH BELOW: President Biden pardoning federal simple marijuana possession offenses)

Evan Donovan

Evan Donovan, wsoctv.com

Evan is an anchor and reporter for Channel 9.