Screening News Update: Drug Use Up, Paying for Medical Marijuana, and EEOC Guidance

Screening News Update: Drug Use Up, Paying for Medical Marijuana, and EEOC Guidance

By Jennifer Gladstone

Marijuana use surged in 2020, states wrestle with who should pay for medical marijuana, and fresh guidance for employers about demanding their staff get the shot. It’s all in today’s EBI Screening News Update.

Marijuana Use Surged During COVID-19

Every year, Quest Diagnostics releases a study about drug use in the workplace. In 2019 the number of positive marijuana tests went through the roof hitting a 14-year high.

In 2020, the numbers soared even higher.

This year, Quest looked at 9 million drug tests from January to December of 2020. Overall, marijuana positivity rates for the U.S. workforce were up more than 16%. The study also showed that the positivity rates were significantly higher in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. In those states, positivity rates are up 118% since 2012.

States with legalized marijuana saw increases in both pre-employment and post-accident positivity rates, but the post-accident numbers grew 73% faster. While urine tests cannot tell if an employee was under the influence at the time of an accident, Quest researchers say the huge jump in positive tests suggests that marijuana use played a role in many of those accidents.

The industries hit the hardest by the increases are:

  • Retail
  • Accommodations and Food Service

There is a bit of good news – the use of many other drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine dropped dramatically.

Who Should Pay?

Is medical marijuana a medication just like any other you pick up at the pharmacy? If so, should insurance help pay for it? This is a question getting a lot of attention at the state level, and each state is coming up with its own plan.

Alabama, for example, just legalized the medical use of the drug, but the law is very strict. It doesn’t allow any smoking or vaping, and carefully spells out the fact that no insurer or entity providing healthcare coverage – like an employer – is obligated to pay for it.

In New Jersey, the story is very different. The state’s Supreme Court recently decided that if someone is injured on the job and uses medical marijuana in their recovery, the employer must pay for it.

The majority of states do not allow medical marijuana to be covered because it is still illegal, in all forms, under federal law.

EEOC Unveils New COVID-19 guidance

There has been a lot of talk about what employers can and cannot do regarding mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. Up until now, a lot of employers have felt they were groping around in the dark.

Now, there are some concrete answers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has updated its guidance for employers regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. The EEOC confirms that employers can require employees to get vaccinated before returning to the physical workplace.

If you decide a voluntary vaccine program is better for your team, the guidance says you are still allowed to ask employees to disclose their status. You can ask if they have been vaccinated, and even which vaccine they received, but you are not allowed to ask why someone decided not to get vaccinated.

Finally, the EEOC guidance says employers are allowed to offer incentives, including cash, to employees in order to encourage people to get vaccinated.

About the Author

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone

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.

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