Regardless of where you stand on marijuana legalization, one thing is certain, the new legal landscape is riddled with landmines for employers.
These evolving marijuana laws create constant headaches for organizational leadership and HR teams charged with developing drug testing policies and keeping their workplaces safe.
EBI has explored these issues in our three-part series featuring legal, compliance, and drug testing experts sharing business best practices.
In Parts One and Two, Bill Current, President of Current Consulting Group, a leading drug screening consulting agency, shared how employers are responding to changing state marijuana laws and why they may be reacting too quickly.
In Part Three, two drug testing industry insiders offer expert advice for employers who want to move their drug screening policies forward safely and proactively in this rapidly changing environment.
Recreational marijuana is now legal in 19 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam. There are 17 other states that allow medical marijuana use. That means, in all, there are now 38 states that have decided to essentially ignore federal law that makes marijuana use illegal.
Since each of these states is going it alone, the rules and regulations are literally all over the map. It would be too cumbersome to try to outline the ins and outs of each state here, but if you really want to dig deep, the links above will help. What is important to know, though, is that as an employer you must be able to follow the laws in every state where you hire.
As with everything else, ignorance of the law is no excuse.
“This is certainly the time to stay vigilant and to not relax or compromise when considering an employer’s drug testing program,” says Anthony DeAngelo of OraSure Technologies. “While hiring across multiple states can have its challenges, having a clear and concise drug testing policy can help alleviate some of those questions. It also provides an opportunity to begin looking at other methodologies and ways to test within a program.”
But how do you do that if every state you hire in has different rules? DeAngelo says the simple solution is working with a Third-Party Administrator (TPA) or a Certified Third-Party Administrator (C/TPA). These are companies that manage your drug and alcohol testing program.
A C/TPA can do everything from helping your employees find clinics, consolidating billing, and probably most important right now, making sure you are compliant with all federal and state regulations.
Heather Horn, Vice President of Drug Testing, Occupational Health, and Wellness at EBI, says a C/TPA also provides or coordinates the provision of a variety of drug and alcohol testing services to employers. “Many times, the C/TPA provides some of these services directly as the service agent, and often some or all of these services are outsourced,” says Horn.
Choosing the right partner for this important role starts with that “C” in C/TPA. It stands for “Certified.” There are plenty of TPAs out there, but those that are certified have put in the time and the effort into making their testing programs the best they can be.
EBI, for example, is one of only ten service agents to hold a Consortium/Third-Party Administrator certificate of accreditation from the National Drug & Alcohol Screening Association. Companies holding this certificate have demonstrated exceptional ethical standards, procedures, training, and service offerings.
Looking for such certifications is the first step to choosing a drug testing partner.
1. What certifications/accreditations does the C/TPA have to demonstrate their commitment to their industry, education, and standards?
2. Does the TPA ensure all lab partners are SAMSHA certified? For workplace drug testing, your laboratory should be certified by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This is the gold standard for labs performing workplace drug testing and is required for DOT drug testing and under many state laws.
3. What MROs does your TPA use? The Medical Review Officer (MRO) closes out the drug test result with review and verification. MROs are licensed physicians who have a history of diagnostic work in the field of substance abuse. MROs are required to have extensive training and certification, typically by the Medical Review Officer Certification Council (MROCC) or the American Association of Medical Review Officers (AAMRO).
“Utilizing a C/TPA like EBI is a great first step,” says DeAngelo. Choosing a partner is just the beginning. This is a relationship, and as with any relationship, the success depends on communication.
“Stay in touch with your representatives and do not be afraid to ask for guidance or clarity on issues,” he advises. “Their expertise and guidance can certainly help alleviate many concerns, while providing first-hand experience in assisting with companies in similar industries and positions.”
But even with a C/TPA, there are things you need to do internally to ensure you are providing a safe work environment. “This is a great time to take a look at your company’s drug and alcohol testing policy and ensure you are reviewing it at least once a year,” says DeAngelo.
The goal continues to stay the same; it is a company’s responsibility to offer a safe and healthy work environment for employees and ensure employees are fit to perform their assigned duties.
“While there is a lot of “noise” behind many of these initiatives, there is also a rather alarming set of data showing the adverse effect marijuana has on workplace safety,” says DeAngelo. “Continue to research different methodologies, like oral fluid testing, that may provide a better understanding of recent marijuana use. Oral fluid is great in that sense. Other methodologies would show more lifestyle usage which some employers don’t want to impede on what their employees do outside of work, they just want to make sure they aren’t under the influence while on the job.”
A solid drug testing policy and program remains a key component to a healthy and safe workplace, regardless of what your current state law is. But we also know figuring out what types of drug testing methods are best for your company is hard, especially now, when laws are evolving so rapidly.
Here is a list of additional EBI resources that may help you in your decision-making:
EBI has one of the most compliant DOT drug testing solutions, and one of the best non-DOT drug screening platforms in the industry. Our drug screening platform enables you to manage every aspect of your drug screening program from a single interface. All specimen types are supported (urine, hair, blood, oral fluid), and we have the largest self-managed network with over 15,000 locations.
If you’d like to speak with one of our EBI experts about your current drug testing needs, please click here.
Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.