Drug policies, testing methods adapt to growth in cannabis use

The following commentary is provided by the Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI) of Florida A&M University.

STATEWIDE — Consider this hypothetical scenario: Two weeks ago, during a vacation in California, you lawfully purchased and consumed marijuana intended for adult use. But now you are back at work in Florida, where recreational cannabis remains illegal, and your employer has chosen you for a random drug test.

It is highly likely that your past marijuana usage, although legal at the time, would be detected by urine and hair follicle tests. A urine analysis can find traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component in cannabis, for up to 30 days following marijuana consumption, while a hair follicle sample offers up to 90 days of potentially incriminating evidence.

If your employer has a strict drug-free workplace policy, you could be fired regardless of the circumstances. The same consequence could happen even if you had legally used low-THC medical cannabis because employees with Florida medical marijuana cards are not protected by state law. 

According to drug testing expert Zathan Boutan, employees whose job poses safety risks, such as those working in law enforcement and transportation, are often subject to random drug testing as a condition of employment, unlike employees in desk-bound positions.

“Oral fluid is one of the newer methodologies, and it goes back a day, possibly two if you’re a heavy user,” said Kelly Dobbins, who has 25 years of experience in administering drug and alcohol tests for public and private employers, courts and the federal government.

One commonly observed and blatantly obvious tactic individuals employ is intentionally showing up after the scheduled test date, allowing them more time to cleanse their system. Both Dobbins and Boutan have stopped attempts to use concealed drug-free urine samples. A particularly daring method used to cheat a urine test involves obtaining a urine sample from a non-user.

And then some people just come right out and ask how to pass a drug test.

Visit ​​bit.ly/DrugTestingCoC to watch MMERI’s Conversations on Cannabis Virtual Forum featuring drug testing experts Zathan Boutan and Kelly Dobbins, discuss drug testing and how cannabis can be detected in your body.

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