Testing, Testing

Will THC testing stop now that weed is legal?

Drug tests are the worst kinds of test. You can't study for them, there's only one question, and if you fail you're out of a job.

Ever since our good pal Ronald Reagan helped implement Executive Order 12564 for a drug-free federal workplace in 1986, drug testing has remained both a much-used (if somewhat dubious) tool for employers and part of a dragnet in the ongoing war on drugs. Many employees, understandably, are a bit more worried about their own privacy—especially medical marijuana patients who would rather keep their jobs and the sanctity of their medical records. 

To make matters worse, the test probably has nothing to do with whether or not you get high at work. As the U.S. Department of Labor states, "Drug testing does not test for impairment or whether a person's behavior is, or was, impacted by drugs." Instead, "it detects and measures use of a particular drug within the previous few days and has become the de facto evidence of current use" of said drug.

Washington state DUII legislation aside, there's no universally accepted standard for testing THC impairment, and the reasons for using cannabis vary widely enough that an employee may be prescribed the drug to treat injuries or anxieties caused by their job—the very same job that would fire an employee caught with THC in their system.

But if weed is now legal, maybe THC testing policies will change, since THC is no longer evidence that you've broken the law.

Don't get too excited. According to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, private companies still have full control over whether they drug-test employees and job applicants.

We asked some of Oregon's biggest employers whether they would change their testing policies. Media relations and human resources reps from TriMet, Oregon Health & Science University, General Electric, Harry & David, and Northwest Natural assured us they will continue to test for THC regardless of legalization. Why? Primarily because these large-scale employers wish to continue to comply with federal law (Thanks Nixon and Reagan!)

Still more companies responded with a resounding "no comment," including Intel, Fred Meyer, Airbnb, Schnitzer Steel and Nike (though a customer service rep at Nike said the company probably will continue to test.)

But never say never. Some large companies have let in a few rays of hope. "We anticipate no changes to our existing drug policies," says Bob Speltz of StanCorp Financial Group, "but I think we'll both be alive to see changes happen there."

At Columbia Sportswear, an HR rep told us, "It will depend on the job you're applying for and the recruiter who oversees the position." We'll call that a mild wiggle from Columbia.

Although it will continue to test for THC, Leatherman was the only company to cop to the clunky inaccuracy of current drug tests. "We're not going to change our policy because there's not a reliable test for immediate impairment," says spokeswoman Kitri McGuire. "That is our main concern. If something is developed to make it possible to know that, then yes, our policy would likely change."

So, yes, smoking weed is legal. And, yes, THC and CBD have for decades been considered legitimate palliative drugs in this state, prescribable for ailments from leukemia to joint pain. But when it comes to working at Oregon's largest and most profitable companies, you're still going to be stuck peeing into a cup while nervously counting back the days since your last totally legal, state-taxed puff. Freedom ain't free, I guess. 

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