A job seeker’s guide to marijuana testing
Yes, marijuana will show up in your drug test. And yes, companies still care.
Surprise, surprise – just because you live in one of the states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana (10 states and 33 states, respectively), doesn’t mean you’re in the clear when it comes to pre-employment drug testing.
Despite tacit approval for recreational marijuana and widespread support for medical use, companies still rely on drug tests to validate their hiring processes.
As recruiters, we speak with hundreds of candidates every month, many of whom believe themselves ‘safe’ from discrimination based on marijuana use. This simply isn’t true. Don’t let your dream job slip away in the last stages: here’s everything you need to know about marijuana testing in today’s post-legalization world.
The basics: risks, rules, revelations.
Marijuana users are not a protected class.
Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean companies won’t discriminate based on its usage. Businesses are perfectly justified in excluding marijuana users from their workforce – so long as they are comfortable with dismissing a significant chunk of their viable candidates.
Following the test, your recruiter won’t have access to the specific substances for which you test positive. The company’s HR may request your detailed results – including which substances tested positive – but this step is often foregone as a ‘pass’ requires negative results across the board. That means your hiring manager will likely never know whether you’re a casual marijuana user or a cocaine user.
Faced with a failed test, the company will simply exclude you – no questions asked.
Medical documentation isn’t necessarily a valid defense.
Companies can refuse to hire you – or even fire you – based on a positive marijuana test, regardless of your medical needs. In most states, there are no laws protecting your employment rights as a medical marijuana user.
But change is in the air. Recently, employee advocate groups have had some early-stage wins in this domain; a wrongful termination suit was successfully filed against Walmart after they fired a medical marijuana user testing positive for THC. Similar cases have popped up in Ohio, Connecticut, and Oklahoma.
Legislation in New York proposes a ban on pre-employment THC testing in its entirety. The tides are certainly starting to turn.
How to move forward if you know you’ll test positive.
You have a few options, depending on the nature of your situation. If you’re a recreational user, your best strategy is to simply abstain from marijuana (or any drugs) during the weeks surrounding your job search process.
If you are a medical marijuana user with a chronic condition for which you have received a medical prescription, the situation becomes more complicated. As we mentioned, a medical prescription will not necessarily protect you. In the end, it comes down to the company’s policies – if they are a federally regulated business (think defense contractors), you’re out of luck. But privately or publicly held companies can be more lenient if the situation is properly presented by you or your advocate.
No matter your circumstance, it is in your best interest to share any information that may impact your job search with your recruiter. We cannot legally ask about your drug use or criminal history – only you can give us access to that information. Without the information, we won’t be able to properly protect your interests later in the process.
It is to your benefit to:
- Ask your recruiter (not HR at the company) ‘is there any background information or testing that you’ll need to perform if I go forward with this process?’ The earlier you ask, the earlier they’ll be able to work toward a viable solution.
- Share with your recruiter if you are a medical marijuana user so that they can frame your usage in the best possible light. A good recruiter will prepare the company for the results, and only present you with opportunities that are likely to look kindly on your medical marijuana use.
- Share with your recruiter if you are a recreational user and believe that you will fail the test. They’ll then then be able to avoid companies that require a mandatory pre-employment drug test.
It comes down to this: recruiters can only protect you if and when you choose to share your situation with us.
How to avoid testing altogether.
Not every company will test for drugs – in fact, only about 50% of our client businesses include a drug test as part of their pre-employment screening process. When you work with a recruiter, we can help connect you with companies that reflect your personal values and understand your situation.
Spare yourself the stress of interviewing with a company that will inevitably reject you in the offer stage. We know which companies insist on a clean screen, and which ones couldn’t care less about your out-of-office activities. You need a company that complements all aspects of your life.
Send us your resume at firstname.lastname@example.org, tell us a bit about yourself, and we’ll connect you with the right company – without the stress.