As marijuana is increasingly being legalized across the United States and employers are scrambling to fill related jobs, enterprises across the nation are erasing the marijuana drug test from their background checks.
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"It has come out of nowhere," said Michael Clarkson, head of the drug testing department at international law firm Ogletree Deakins. "I have heard from lots of clients things like 'I can't staff the third shift and test for marijuana.'"
The practise is likely to spread as more states legalize cannabis for recreational or medical use, or both. Missouri is slated to become the 30th state to legalize medical marijuana, while Michigan could become the 10th state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis.
Courts are also beginning to rule in employees' favor when it comes to testing positive for cannabis. In the past year, medical smokers have won lawsuits in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island against companies that either rescinded job offers or fired employees for testing positive for pot.
Testing employees for marijuana use has been standard since 1988, when the Drug-Free Workplace Act was enacted. The act came as a cocaine boom hit the United States, prompting government contractors to pursue the policy. Private businesses soon followed suit.
Even the conservative Trump administration seems to be loosening its stance on marijuana testing. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said to a congressional hearing last month that employers should take a "step back" on drug testing.
"We have all these Americans that are looking to work," Acosta said. "Are we aligning our ... drug testing policies with what's right for the workforce?"
Though there’s no government statistic, the Society of Human Resources Management has found that 57 percent of businesses still test for the substance, which remains illegal at the federal level.
The ones that don't are still "pretty hush-hush about it," says Curtis Graves, a lawyer at the Employers Council.
AutoNation, with dealerships in 17 states, is one of the few companies to go public regarding their new non-testing policy. Spokesman Marc Cannon said the move was made in response to evolving public attitudes, laws and the fear of losing potential employees.
"The labor market has tightened up," Cannon said, especially among those without a high-school diploma. The unemployment rate has dropped a percentage point since 2017 to 5.5 percent among this group.
He also said other businesses owners have told him: "We're doing the same thing; we just didn't want to share it publicly."