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Drug tests run into legal issues

Category: Drug Screening

After the most recent round of elections, more states are now legalizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes. This may be good news for those with certain ailments, but businesses are struggling to understand what they can and cannot penalize employees for on blood tests. Human resources personnel will need to be on their toes, especially in concocting new protocols for acceptable work practices, as banning employees from using these substances is not entirely legal.

A legal matter
Medical marijuana has been legalized in 18 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Employers in these regions can still impose blood testing on workers on a random basis and may require them in order to get a job, but the way they use the results is changing. Now, those who test positive for certain substances may be eligible to remain at work if they have medical clearance. KKCO News, an affiliate of NBC in Colorado, reported that some bosses are reassessing their workplace drug policies to ensure that they are up to date with modern laws.

"We have a lot of employers who have a lot of questions about this because it's not as clear cut as it is with being under the influence of alcohol," said Diane Schwenke, director of the Mountain State Employers Council. In other words, if a person has more than a specific amount of THC showing in blood test results, is that grounds for dismissal, or is it still legal under medical marijuana laws?

Questioning certain substance use
Other employers have taken a zero-tolerance policy to all substances, a matter that is still considered legal in many states, even when it applies to legal drugs. Time magazine reported that a growing number of medical facilities, including private practices and public hospitals, are using blood testing to see if potential doctors and nurses are also smokers. Traces of nicotine on screening panels alert recruiters that candidates are possibly smokers, potentially ruling them out for consideration in the future or resulting in termination in other cases.

As part of these centers' initiatives to promote healthier images, medical firms are allowed to turn people away for breaching their employment guidelines. The source noted that one southern Delaware hospital has already banned all tobacco products at its facility, meaning all existing and incoming personnel are not allowed to smoke cigarettes or use products that deliver nicotine to the body.

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