Drug Testing…a Cannabis discussion for Consultants

close up photo of kush on glass container
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While I don’t use any cannabis products I have a lot of friends and professional colleagues who do.  I was thinking about the impact to those in our industry of consulting and client policies regarding use and screenings.  There are tons of articles on traveling with pot, but what about drug testing requirements for consulting firms and/or clients and use while on engagement?

First, a quick snap shot of the law.  5 years ago Colorado became the first US state to legalize marijuana. Today a total of 9 states (and District of Columbia) have legalized marijuana for recreational use including; Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.  These states allow you to have 1 oz of usable marijuana in possession and you can even have up to 6 plants in your home.  Plus there are 33 states that have legalized for medical purposes.  So, if you are engaged in one of these 9 states, or have a medical card, you should be permitted to use…right?

Without a question marijuana is becoming as normal as smoking cigarettes or drinking a glass of wine.  And we all know as a consultants, these activities should be limited to when off client time and property, which is obvious.  The question however remains, what are client requirements for drug testing…and how do these laws impact us as consultants when traveling?  Let’s take a look at testing.

Testing conducted, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) guidelines, check for five illicit drugs including; Amphetamines (meth/ecstasy), Cocaine, Opiates (heroin/codeine), Phencyclidine (PCP), and yes…THC.  Several hospitals have an 8-panel test that also adds Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, and Methaqualone to the list…especially in states like Indiana, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas.  Almost all drug testing is completed via urine, but could include blood or hair, which looks at a longer history of use. While levels of detection requirements vary, the presence of any may result in a review to determine eligibility of employment.

You’ll also want to look at the potential engagement state laws regarding drug testing.  Louisiana is an interesting state, for example, that while private companies may request drug screening, they cannot discharge or refuse employment based on results.  However, right next door on both sides in Texas and Mississippi employers can terminate based on results and/or candidate refusal to have test completed.

In interviewing several consultants, representing 10 different firms, only 2 firms have drug pre-screening requirements for employment.  The other 8 base drug screenings, and immunization requirements, based on client requests.  So while you may get hired for a firm, you may not qualify for certain engagements with certain requirements.  One engagement that I remember not qualifying for was Dayton Children’s Hospital, as they tested for nicotine (which is unprecedented). I could not find details on their THC requirements, but you can guess what it is.

I would say you want to familiarize yourself with the state laws, client, and the firm’s requirements.  This map showing legalization status may help when talking to recruiters if you are a cannabis user. I think there is an argument to be made that if one consultant can drink wine then why can’t the other consultant smoke marijuana.  There are several articles out there stating that employers are no longer testing or reviewing results for THC…but that’s in states like CA, CO, MA, and NY.  Ask your recruiter what the expectations are to be on the safe side. I’ve seen consultants be escorted off property after being screened…it has to be a terrible experience.

What are your thoughts?  Share your comments below.

2 Comments on “Drug Testing…a Cannabis discussion for Consultants

  1. Very nice and thorough article. I don’t use, so i come from a different prospective than some. I noticed while traveling to Canada for my current client, signs at the customs area of zero tolerance. Not only should folks be aware of US regulations, since new Epic implementations are now mostly overseas ir outside the US, they need to research that country as well.

    • I thought about adding some international travel rules/laws…but it gets so complex its crazy. So yes, folks have to know the rules for sure! Thanks for sharing.

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