Louisiana Employers Could Soon Drug Test Hair From Applicants

By McCarton Ackerman 04/24/15

Louisiana has one of the highest rates of drug dependence in the nation.

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When it comes to drug testing, blood or urine may not be enough for Louisiana employers. A new bill could soon give employers the option to test job applicants using hair samples.

The Louisiana legislature reviewed House Bill 379 on Wednesday and it will now be moved to the house floor. While urine testing can typically only detect drug use within the last 48-72 hours, hair sample testing can detect any illicit drug use within the last 90 days. State Rep. Paul Hollis [R], who sponsored the bill, called it the “gold star” of drug testing.

Hollis argued that current laws on the books already allow for hair sample drug testing, but lack language on the required accreditations to process the results. H.B. 379 would address this by requiring the College of American Pathologists to provide accreditation for diagnostic facilities permitted to perform the testing.

The new measure reflects Louisiana’s growing trend of relying more on drug testing. In May 2012, the house committee approved a bill that calls for mandatory drug testing of certain cash welfare recipients. H.B. 380 requires chemical testing of at least 20% of adult applicants, with John Labruzzo arguing that the state’s previous practice of using interviews and questionnaires to screen applicants was insufficient. However, the $45,000-per-year program only reaches about 1,450 people each year.

Drug use continues to be a problem throughout the state. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 3.93% of state residents had used an illicit drug in the past month, compared to the national average of 3.58%. Marijuana was the most commonly used drug, followed by cocaine.

Louisiana also ranks among the top 10 states for past-year cocaine use and drug dependence among people ages 12 and older. The state’s drug-induced death rate is also higher than the national average.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.