There may come a time when future historians look back on the late-20th century and ask, “How did it become normal to hand in a cup of pee to an employer before you could secure a job?” We wonder that sometimes right now.
In the beginning was Reefer Madness, and Reefer Madness begat the insanely racist rhetoric of Henry Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. That begat cannabis on the Controlled Substances list, and the War on Drugs. By proxy, employers believed the hype and began drug screens on their own. Mind you, no federal law requires employers to screen for drugs; they just did it on their own.
We’ve pointed out before that there is a conflict between the legalization of cannabis and the continued policy of testing employee candidates for cannabis. Given that cannabis tests can go months and even years back to find cannabinoids in your system, you’d have to ask what good is it to legalize cannabis when you can’t get a job because you smoked one pre-roll over summer break?
But now a mighty wind o’ change is blowing, and tomorrow’s job applicant may finally have one less problem to worry about…
Amazon, one of the largest employers in the United States, made quite a splash in the headlines this year with the announcement that they would no longer screen candidates for cannabis testing. Amazon CEO Dave Clark clarifies that this applies to positions that do not require driving. The company will continue to do impairment checks on the clock and after incidents.
Clark (Bezos stepped down as Amazon CEO in July 2021) indicates that the changing state laws drive Amazon’s choice in ending mandatory cannabis screens for all employee applicants. Considering that they employ 16K people in Colorado alone, one of the first states to legalize, you can see their point.
Amazon has since doubled-down on their stance, urging contracted companies to also end cannabis screening for applicants. That story has since had a head-on collision (sorry) with the COVID-19 pandemic story: A worldwide labor shortage that is threatening the global supply chain.
Say what you will to explian this situation: It’s due to COVID deaths and those whose lives are irreparably changed, it’s due to greedy employers who won’t pay employees their fair share, it’s due to people just depressed and discouraged and paranoidduring a global plague. But the bottom line is, if you have a job opening right now, you’ll take just about any warm body that walks in the door, without caring if they dabbed an extract last night.
Vice reporters spell it out clearly: “Companies are Getting Rid of Drug Tests Because They Can’t Find Enough Workers.” Unnecessary drug tests just uselessly block candidates out of an already small talent pool. This is not confined to the United States, but also to the UK, Canada, and Australia.
The NBA has also suspended cannabis screening of players. Now sports and recreation is one story, but major banking firms are also ending cannabis screening. This new policy is explained when you consider that most of the US banking corporations are headquartered in New York, which has recently gone legal. Finally we have the most triumphant blow to strike down pre-employment cannabis screening, there is “Phynally,” a search engine for finding jobs that don’t require cannabis testing. “We are the Linked-In for cannabis users,” the CEO proudly announces.
Now we’re seeing the tail wagging the dog: Government steps into the issue for the first time with an Illinois bill which seeks to make it illegal to screen or fire employees for cannabis use. If that sounds like a radical step, Philadelphia has already passed a law banning cannabis pre-employment screens. The same can be said in New York, which has also banned cannabis drug screening for most positions. Nevada, a state with one of the most rocking cannabis scenes in the country, has also outlawed pre-job cannabis screening. Even way up in Maine, which barely has a legal market at all yet, employers are already banned from cannabis testing.
Even though we’re a cannabis review and consumer advocacy site, we’re going to go overboard and say that cannabis is not an impairing substance at all. You still shouldn’t drive stoned, OK? We don’t want air traffic controllers and brain surgeons out there stoned. Of course not.
But for most service-level jobs that don’t involve driving or operating heavy equipment, do we really care that much? Readers, are you comfortable with the checker at the grocery store or the waiter at the restaurant blazing up on break? From what we’ve seen of many service-level jobs, they’re not so demanding that you need every brain cell to perform your duties.
In some cases, some cannabis use may even be a benefit. Remember that there’s more to cannabis than just getting stoned anymore. I’ve noted before that some strains without heavy THC content, but substituting delta 8 or CBG, even help increase alertness, making you feel less drowsy.
Consider also that this has no impact on prohibiting cannabis use on-the-job. Most companies will still restrict that, and most of us don’t have a problem with it. But pre-employment cannabis screening means you can’t even indulge on your off-time. You can legally get sloppy drunk and come in the next day with a hangover that would make Dionysus cry, but cannabis, with almost no traces of a hangover effect, is prohibited.
We wanted legalized cannabis and we’re finally getting it. Are we now prepared to enter a post-prohibition world where your cook, museum guide, newscaster, and basketball player is a regular stoner? Share your thoughts in the comments below or in our highly permissive forum.
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