As the legalization of marijuana expands across the United States, new data shows a parallel rise in its use among American workers. A recent annual report by Quest Diagnostics, a medical lab and testing company, highlights that cannabis positivity in workplace drug tests reached an all-time high in 2022. This article explores these findings, their implications, and what they reveal about changing attitudes toward marijuana.
Key Findings in Cannabis Use Among Workers
Quest Diagnostics analyzed over 6 million urine tests for marijuana use in 2022, focusing on the general worker category, which excludes workers in federally mandated, safety-sensitive positions like pilots and truck drivers. According to their data, 4.3% of these tests were positive for cannabis, up from 3.9% in 2021. This is the highest rate ever recorded by Quest since they began examining workplace drug use in 1988. The data also indicated that 7.3% of general workers tested positive for marijuana following on-the-job accidents, a figure that is the highest in 25 years and up from 6.7% in 2021.
Interpretation and Commentary
Keith Ward, the Vice President for employer solutions at Quest Diagnostics, associates this upward trend with shifting societal perspectives on marijuana use. He notes that the increase is evident both in pre-employment and post-accident drug tests, suggesting that changing societal norms about marijuana may be influencing workplace behavior.
Regional Differences and Legalization
The report also underscores that states where recreational and medical marijuana is legal exhibit higher positivity rates than the national average. In states with legalized recreational marijuana, 5.7% of general workers tested positive for cannabis in 2022, compared to the 4.3% national average. Interestingly, the rate was slightly below the national average, at 3.9%, in states where only medical marijuana is legal.
Broader Drug Use Trends in the Workplace
Despite the uptick in cannabis use, the overall rate of drug use among U.S. workers remained stable at 4.6% in 2022. Rates for amphetamine use saw a slight increase, particularly among employees in Education Services. Quest does not distinguish between legally prescribed amphetamines like Adderall and illicit versions, but the rise is still noteworthy given the health risks associated with this class of drugs.
Declining Popularity of Workplace Drug Tests
In a notable development, fewer American companies are conducting drug screenings. A Bureau of Labor Statistics survey indicates that only 16.1% of around 80,000 private-sector employers tested their employees for drugs in 2021, down from 30% in 1996.
The rising rates of cannabis use in the workforce, as revealed by Quest Diagnostics, likely mirror broader societal changes, including the increasing legalization of marijuana across the U.S. While this raises new questions and challenges for employers, it also reflects the evolving attitudes toward marijuana as it moves from the fringes to the mainstream. As this trend continues, employers, policymakers, and healthcare providers will need to adapt and consider new approaches to workplace safety, health, and productivity.