Healthcare is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy, employing over 18 million workers. Healthcare workers face a wide range of hazards on the job, including sharps injuries, harmful exposures to chemicals and hazardous drugs, back injuries, violence, and stress. Drug use and abuse in the workplace not only puts the employees and patients at risk, it leaves the employers vulnerable to negligence claims and costs.  A strong and defensible drug and alcohol testing program and policy, including a robust random testing program, helps protect employers and their bottom line. 

Vermont’s recreational marijuana law, Act 86, goes into effect on July 1, 2018. While employers still broadly retain their same rights to test for marijuana, prohibit it’s use in the workplace, and discipline based on a marijuana-positive drug test, Act 86 brings about nuances to workplace drug testing in the state that employers should be aware of.

Last week, drug testing expert Nina M. French from the Current Consulting Group presented the important changes affecting healthcare employers’ drug testing programs during PreCheck’s webinar. In case you missed the live presentation, a recorded version is now available from our Resources Library.

Healthcare providers play a critical role in today’s society – providing care for hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. As an industry, they have seen firsthand the devastating impact of drug use and abuse today. But with higher than average rates of use and addiction in their own employer population, how are employers in healthcare able to manage their own workforce? 

The legalization of marijuana and its use in the workplace continues to be a hot topic for employers. As of February 1, 2018, Maine’s recreational marijuana law prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions for off-premises marijuana use.

The healthcare industry is one of the most complex and highly regulated, which means employers have a greater responsibility to ensure a safe workplace environment not just for their own staff, but also for patients. The past decade has seen advancements in technology and best practices for the industry, with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) placing greater emphasis on quality of care and patient safety. Industry regulators have provided updated guidance and newer technologies have allowed leading organizations and systems to improve the efficiency of their screening efforts.

A workplace drug testing program can help employers promote a safe workplace environment. Studies have consistently shown that workplace drug testing can deter drug use among employees. A 2007 study published in Health Services Research by Christopher Carpenter found that workplace drug testing can reduce marijuana use by as much as 30 to 40 percent. For healthcare organizations, therefore, instating an effective drug testing program can safeguard patients and impact quality of care.

We recently published an article discussing the complexities of today’s ever-changing marijuana laws, and the impact it’s had on employers and their drug testing policies. The inconsistencies between state and federal marijuana laws have made it increasingly challenging for employers to understand what constitutes as “legal activity” in their state’s Lawful Activity Statute.

In 2014, we hosted a webinar with Bill Current, Director of the Annual Survey of Drug Testing Industry Trends, which discussed key considerations for establishing a random drug testing program. In case you missed it, you can view the webinar recording here. Currently, there are over 20 states that have legalized medical marijuana and voters in Colorado and Washington State have legalized recreational pot.

The ongoing debate on legalizing marijuana and its effect on the workplace has brought major concerns for employers. At the federal level, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act—which is considered to have a high potential for dependency and not accepted for medical use, making the distribution of marijuana a federal offense in all 50 states.

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