The Governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, signed a bill on May 21, 2020, that would dedicate $300,000 towards a THC breath test pilot program. House Bill 4164 features a pilot program that would be used by state and local law enforcement to help solve problems with THC detection windows in current drug testing methods.
In states where marijuana is legal, either recreationally, medicinally, or both, employers are faced with growing challenges of how to detect current impairment while on the job. This bill is the first official government action the U.S. has seen towards a new type of technology that would assist in detecting recent usage and current impairment, providing a glimpse into what the future may hold for the drug testing industry and how it helps employers.
Currently, there are several testing methodologies to detect marijuana, but the issue lies with the differing detection window frames. The amount of time THC can remain in a person’s body depends on a variety of factors that differ from person to person. Depending on the testing method, marijuana can be detected for weeks after its initial use, making it difficult for employers and law enforcement to determine if someone is currently under the influence of marijuana. This can create challenges for employers who are trying to be accommodating of state-specific marijuana regulations while also maintaining a drug-free workplace.
· Oral Fluid Testing - Can detect recent drug use ranging from a few minutes to 48 hours.
· Urinalysis - Can detect drug usage up to several weeks, depending on the individual’s use.
· Hair Testing - Can detect repeat drug use up to a 90-day window.
Employers can test for the presence of THC, but there is no test on the market that determines if an employee is likely impaired at the moment. Companies such as Hound Labs are working to develop products similar to alcohol breathalyzers to help detect recent usage, which strongly correlates to THC impairment. Studies have shown that marijuana can cause impairment affecting driving functions, such as:
· Distance Perception
· Lane Tracking
· Motor Coordination
· Divided Attention Tasks
· Reaction Time
A THC breathalyzer will help employers identify recent usage while on the job. If an employee has recently used, the employer can make a smarter determination if they are currently impaired. Current testing methods confirm THC in the system, but they may be detecting THC from usage that happened in off-hours. This more exacting timeframe makes it easier for employers who are maintaining a drug-free workplace while accommodating state-specific marijuana usage.
“The HOUND MARIJUANA BREATHALYZER will provide employers and law enforcement officers objective data about the recent use of marijuana. By shortening the window of detection of marijuana use from days or even weeks to a few hours after use, the results from the HOUND MARIJUANA BREATHALYZER will help to better inform the decisions made by law enforcement and employers. In states where marijuana is legal, employers are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain safety in the workplace while also accommodating an employee’s right to use outside of work. Hound Labs’ product quickly and accurately determines recent marijuana use, focusing on use within the window of peak impairment.” - Sammie Dabbs, Vice President, Employer Sales at Hound Labs.
While marijuana is available for use either recreationally or medicinally in several states across the U.S., it’s important for employers to understand it’s still federally illegal. This means a positive drug test indicating an employee has used THC can be used as grounds for termination in positions that are federally regulated, regardless of recency in usage.
Additionally, most state marijuana laws have safety-sensitive carve-outs that enable employers to operate on a zero-tolerance policy for THC. This is particularly applicable to employees in a role that could pose health risks to themselves or others if they were impaired on the job. Examples include welders, forklift drivers, healthcare providers, truck drivers, and more.
Since there currently is no perfect way of detecting impairment, it’s important for employers to create a clear and concise written drug testing program to ensure that employees are well-informed of the company’s drug testing practices and disciplinary actions. By implementing drug testing practices, it will help deter employees from using in the first place. It’s also important that employers implement reasonable suspicion training and drug testing to help detect impairment on the job.
DISA’s professionals can help ensure you have a safe workplace through our variety of compliance products and services. DISA offers reasonable suspicion training to help your designated managers or HR professionals to properly identify the signs to suspect an employee of drug use. In addition to a comprehensive drug testing program, employers should also implement a medical disclosure policy to inform employees of the rules regarding the use of impairing prescriptions in the workplace.
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Founded in 1987, DISA is the industry-leading provider of employee screening and compliance services. Headquartered in Houston, with more than 35 offices throughout the U.S. and Canada, DISA’s comprehensive scope of services includes drug and alcohol testing, background screening, occupational health, and transportation compliance. DISA assists employers in making informed staffing decisions while building a culture of safety in their workplace.