Rocky Mountain High?

As I’m sure you’ve all heard, marijuana is now legal for recreational use in the state of Colorado.  If you haven’t already, I strongly urge you to have this discussion with your HR and safety team now rather than after you deal with a positive marijuana drug test.  You don’t want people to think it’s okay to get a “Rocky Mountain High” in the words of John Denver.

For the DOT: 

 As far as the DOT is concerned, if you are conducting a federally mandated drug testing program which is required for people driving large trucks, driving buses, working on pipelines, or any of the various other DOT safety sensitive work functions, a positive marijuana test will never be overturned due to medicinal purposes or recreational purposes, regardless of where it is consumed.  If someone pops positive on a DOT test for marijuana, even if they have a prescription (except a prescription for Marinol which is dispensed from normal pharmacies in all states), the DOT test will be confirmed as positive and the employee will be banned from performing any DOT safety sensitive jobs.  To return to that job function, that employee will have to 1.  Go through the SAP process (see a substance abuse counselor and follow a prescribed program which can include inpatient or outpatient treatment), 2.  You have to submit to a “return-to-duty” DIRECT OBSERVED drug test and have it come back negative after your SAP councilor gives you the nod to go back to work, then 3.  Submit to a prescribed “follow-up” testing program which includes random DIRECT OBSERVED drug tests.  These tests can be as few as 6 tests over a year, or as many as 60 tests over 5 years.

Bottom line, if you pop positive on a DOT drug test, things get expensive and complicated.  Let’s try to avoid this by informing our employees before they head out on a little vacation.

For Company Mandated Drug Testing: 

For your company mandated drug testing programs, the laws in Colorado only refer to who the legal system will handle people who use marijuana.  Their laws have no impact on your business.  If you prohibit the use of marijuana in your business and you conduct drug tests, then a vacation in Colorado will not over ride that policy.  You do have some flexibility as to how you handle this for your non-DOT programs.  Most of my clients are choosing to ban marijuana across the board.

You may be surprised at how little your employees know about how this works, so I think it’s really important that you tell your employees strait up that they will still be held accountable for their drug test results, regardless of where they spend their free time.  That way, you can avoid the unfortunate situation of having someone come up positive and then informing them of how the laws work.

Now, I also expect for lawsuits to be filed, particularly in Colorado challenging our drug testing policies.  The way those cases roll out will ultimately determine how legalization will be treated.  I expect our policies to be held up because the DOT policies certainly have held up when challenged.  I also see Oklahoma as a rather conservative state, so I would expect Oklahoma to be one of the last places that marijuana is legalized and that courts will uphold your employment decision.  However, my expectation is only my opinion, really anything could happen and we shall see when the first case comes .

Bottom line, to prevent any avoidable positive marijuana tests from employees who believe legalization means it’s OK, just make an announcement to your folks to let them know that regardless of where they vacation, they will be held accountable for any and all drug test results.  If your company has a different opinion on how you’d like to handle situations like this, we would be happy to work with you on writing your policy that clearly outlines your stance on medicinal marijuana or recreational use of marijuana.

Click here to see how Lobdock can help you save money and headaches with proper implementation of drug testing policies that are smart, efficient, and effective.  Or call us at 1-855-753-7843!

About the Author Susan Lobsinger

Susan is founder and President of Lobdock Impairment Detection, a full-service, mobile drug testing and contractor compliance management provider. Lobdock provides safety managers with the objective data they need to make safety decisions that make a difference in the lives, safety, and health of their employees who work in safety sensitive positions.

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