With the roll out of legalized marijuana in Oregon and other States, many employment practices that we’ve had in place for decades need to be reexamined with this new reality in mind.

Depending on their industry, employers are forced to ask themselves what they will do in the face of legalization – by adopting either zero tolerance or neutral impairment standards – a topic covered in a previous article. But once you have that – why worry about testing? Aren’t the existing tests good enough to guide you? The answer, is “it depends.”

As an employer, whether you choose to follow a workplace impairment or traditional zero tolerance standard, it’s important to align your testing protocol with the standard you choose. Not all tests have the same sensitivity, and can only register use within set time frames. Also, for many substances, there aren’t established tests that identify legal impairment – as there is with alcohol consumption and the traditional .08% most of us are familiar with. They simply register positive, or negative on use.

Testing Choices

Knowing what your options are will allow you to choose a certified lab that can expertly identify drug use in employment situations – and retest a candidate should they initially produce a positive result.
Thanks to my friends at Barran Liebman, LLC in Portland, here’s a quick summary of the available testing formats available:

  • Oral fluid – This is a simple mouth swab that is designed to detect certain types of illicit drug use based on the complexity of the test. The detection time frame from consumption is anywhere from immediately to 24 hours – depending on the test sensitivity, subject weight, hydration and other physical attributes. It will primarily help you determine if someone was such as heavy user that they couldn’t hold off for a day prior to submitting to a test.
  • Blood – While at first glance you could assume this is a more rigorous test, it cannot establish impairment, and has shortest detection window after consumption – typically 3-4 hours.
  • Hair – Again, someone might assume that this is a more revealing test, but in reality it provides an indication of use approximately 7-10 days after use – so its usefulness for an employment situation is very poor.
  • Urine – This is the test you want if you’re trying to enforce the strictest standard possible – as it has the longest look-back period.
    • For a normal user, this will show positive if ingestion is within the past 4-72 hours
    • For a chronic user, this will show positive if ingestion is within the past 30 days

Bear in mind that all of these can be offset by body mass, hydration and so forth – and are reflective of how the body processes certain substances. Also, remember that just because a candidate initially registers positive, doesn’t mean it’s correct. A review and retest from a certified medical review officer at your designated lab is optimal. Common household products in combination are known to register positive results for illicit drug use under certain conditions.

Having a policy and supporting testing resources in place can ensure a quality testing result that meets your needs and treats all candidates fairly. Your access to lab and medical review professionals will ensure that you don’t miss out on a qualified candidate and avoid needless and costly litigation.

Vantage Point can walk you through this process of establishing a policy, and identifying the suppliers that meet your needs. Let’s talk.