More US Job Seekers Fail Drug Tests

By McCarton Ackerman 03/08/13

Pre-employment drug tests are coming back positive at the highest rate since 2007.

Narrowing the applicant pool? Photo via

Apparently the one thing rising in the US job market is positive drug tests among applicants. Data from medical lab research company Quest Diagnostics confirms that the rate of job applicants who test positive for drugs has increased 5.7% since 2011 and is at an all-time high since 2007, The Huffington Post reports. Marijuana was the leading substance, accounting for 2% of the 3.4 million urine tests analyzed in the first six months of 2012. Amphetamines came in second, accounting for 0.86% of the tests. California, Oregon and New York are among the states with the highest rates of positive pot tests. But although the DEA claimed last January that marijuana legalization would increase drug use, Dr. Barry Sample, director of science and technology at Quest, says the organization has compiled data on workplace drug tests for 25 years and found no correlation between states with decriminalized or legalized use of marijuana and higher rates of positive tests. He adds that rejecting applicants for positive drug tests may increase the challenge of finding competent workers. “Employers are having some difficulty finding employees who can pass their drug tests,” he says. Even in states where pot is now legal, employers can ban its use in the workplace. "Employers are going to have to take a hard look at their policies and decide if they want to do drug testing,” says Holli Hartman, counsel at Cleveland-based law firm BakerHostetler. "[Marijuana] is still an illegal drug on the federal level, but employers are still going to have a lot of discretion to decide what goes on in the workplace and also what their employees do outside of the workplace to some extent."

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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.