Most government jobs in Michigan will stop drug testing prospective employees for cannabis, per a rule change that took effect Sunday. The changes also provide people who’ve already been denied jobs over positive THC drug tests an opportunity to get the sanctions retroactively rescinded. The rule change was first proposed to the Michigan Civil Service Commission by John Gnodtke, State Personnel Director, on May 12.

At a July 12 meeting, the Michigan Civil Service Commission approved the proposed new changes and adopted rule amendments to allow rescinding active sanctions for some applicants who tested positive for cannabis in drug tests since 2020. 

“When a drug test is required, an appointing authority shall require testing for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and phencyclidine, except that marijuana testing is not authorized for a preemployment drug test for a new hire to a position that is not test‐designated and cannot be used to rescind a conditional offer of employment to such a position,” the amended rule reads. “Before If an agency requires testing for other drugs, it must first obtain written approval from the director. A request must include the agency’s proposed initial test methods, testing levels, and performance test program. When conducting reasonable‐ suspicion or post‐accident testing, an agency may require testing for any drug listed in schedule 1 or 2.”

Commissioner Nick Ciaramitaro said the change is needed to comply with Michigan’s adult-use cannabis statute, which was approved via a statewide ballot measure in 2018. Voters also legalized medical cannabis 10 years earlier with the approval of the state’s 2008 ballot proposal.

“Whether or not we agree with it or not is kind of beyond the point,” Ciaramitaro told MLive. “Use of marijuana on the job is different than having used it months before you take the test … It doesn’t make sense to limit our ability to hire qualified people because they took a gummy two weeks ago.”

Michigan residents made the decisions to “treat marijuana, recreational marijuana, much like alcohol,” said Commission chair Jase Bolger.

Two years ago, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel sent a legal opinion to Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Appeals Commission, which argued that employees fired from their jobs for cannabis use outside the workplace are technically still eligible for unemployment benefits per state law.

“Marijuana was not used on the job or on the employers’ premises, nor did it impair the employee during work hours,” Nessel’s office said in a statement at the time.

“The people spoke loud and clear when they voted in 2018 to legalize marijuana once and for all,” the Nessel said. “Nobody over 21 can be penalized or denied any right or privilege solely for legally using marijuana, and employers cannot control their employees’ private lives by calling the legal use of marijuana outside of work hours ‘misconduct.’”

Nessel’s argument appears to stand and go beyond unemployment benefits.

Positive THC Workplace Drug Tests Hits All-Time High

One major reason to update drug testing policies is its utter failure in deterring job candidates from refraining from smoking. Failed drug tests for THC hit an all-time high just months ago, according to one analysis.

According to a Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index Analysis that was published on May 18, post-accident workplace drug testing hit an all-time high in 2022. Last year, 7.3% workforce drug urine samples contained cannabis, in comparison to 6.7% of workers in 2021. Quest Diagnostics states that it has recorded a steady rise in post-accident cannabis positivity since 2012, with a 204.2% increase in workers testing positive for cannabis over the past 10 years. Between 2002-2009, post-accident positive test results had decreased.

The report indicates that cannabis was the primary reason that workers’s drug tests have been positive, but other substances such as amphetamines have also contributed to the increase, with cannabis increasing by 10.3% and amphetamines increasing by 15.4%. In 2022, the most common industries that saw a rise in positive workplace drug tests were Accommodation and Food Services (7%), Retail Trade (7.7%), and Finance and Insurance (3.6%).

In September 2022, New Jersey regulators issued employment guidance for cannabis rules in the workplace, which “is meant to support employers’ right to create and maintain safe work environments, and to affirm employees’ right to due process.”

Changes are taking place at the federal level as well. In February 2021, the Biden administration announced a new policy that would allow applicants to be hired even if they had previously consumed cannabis. “The White House’s policy will maintain the absolute highest standards for service in government that the President expects from his administration, while acknowledging the reality that state and local marijuana laws have changed significantly across the country in recent years,” the policy stated.

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