Navigating Workplace Drug Testing Has Never Been More Challenging-Or More Critical

By Clarissa Windham-Bradstock, Forbes

When record-low unemployment rates collide with record-high drug use in the American workforce, companies can find themselves at a dangerous crossroads. Throw in the fact that 43 states now have some sort of legalized marijuana (33 for medical use and 10 for recreational use), and the work of HR and risk directors gets even dicier. As CEO of a leading direct access lab testing company, my team and I are on the front lines and able to see the imperative of workplace drug testing, which is why we work with employers to navigate changing drug laws and offer the best drug testing options.

While federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce drug testing is clearly defined, drug testing decisions for private employers are a challenge, even as leaders know substance abuse is a problem. According to the National Safety Council, approximately 15 million employees are struggling with some sort of substance abuse issue, including alcohol, pain medication, marijuana and other drugs. While no industry is immune to drug use, some — such as retail, construction and the hospitality industry — are more prone to it than others.

Quest Diagnostics’ recent Drug Testing Index (DTI) shows workforce drug positivity at its highest rate in a decade. (Full disclosure: We partner and work closely with Quest Diagnostics.) Not surprisingly, states like Nevada, California and Massachusetts that have recently enacted recreational marijuana laws have seen double-digit increases in the number of employees who test positive for marijuana. As a result, in a tight job market that has made it hard for employers to fill positions, we are seeing more and more companies dropping marijuana from their drug test screening. It is a calculated, or sometimes not-so-calculated, risk. Some consider it the new “don’t ask, don’t tell” issue in the workplace.

Windham-Bradstock, C. (2019). Navigating workplace drug testing has never been more challenging-or more critical. Forbes. Retrieved from


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