What Happens if You Refuse to Take a Drug Test for Work?

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Since Colorado and Washington states legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2012, the drug has been enjoying an increasingly warm welcome in many other states.

Eight more states have followed suit while many others have legalized medical cannabis or high-CBD cannabis oil.

But despite a rapidly growing movement towards decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana, two things have not changed.

One, the federal government still prohibits possession and use of marijuana. The DEA classifies it as a schedule 1 drug alongside heroin, cocaine and LSD.

Two, you can still get fired or be denied a job is you test positive for weed even if you live in a state that has legalized weed for recreational use.

Workplace Safety

Workplace drug testing began with President Reagan after reports of rampant drug use in the army in Vietnam.

Through an Executive Order, Reagan prohibited the use of illicit drugs by federal employees and mandated the use of urine drug testing by accredited laboratories.

Soon, the testing requirements were extended to companies with federal contracts. Numerous private companies quickly joined the bandwagon, coming up with drug-free policies for their workplaces.

The main justification companies used to start testing their employees was workplace safety.

It’s still the main justification today, even though many studies have not shown a link between workplace drug testing and a reduction in drug use.

While drug testing is understandable for certain safety sensitive jobs like forklift operators, it has not been proven effective among most office workers.

But it’s not just safety companies have in mind when they require hair or urine drug testing before hiring.

Some insurance companies offer discounts when companies hire drug-tested employees. There is also the pressure from drug testing companies that have made a bounty in the industry.

So it’s no wonder that many companies are lagging behind local laws and public perception when it comes to marijuana, the most tested for drug.

Can You Legally Refuse a Drug Test?

Drug Test

As infuriating the whole thing is, there’s usually not much you can do. Most state laws side largely with companies.

Employees do have a few protections but not many.

In some states, the employer must have reasonable suspicion to order a drug test. But this only applies to current employees, not potential hires.

But companies don’t have to prove they had reasonable suspicion before ordering a drug test. If you go to court, the burden of proof is on you.

They’ll just say the S-word (safety) and most judges will rule against you.

Workplaces that have explicit safety requirements such as airports or plants can basically ask their employees to get tested whenever they want and there’s no law to stop them.

The only thing employers cannot do is order drug tests discriminately based on race, religion or gender.

But generally, you have no concrete legal standing for refusing a drug test.

If you refuse, then they have cause to fire you without any severance pay. If you were applying to a new job, they will most likely rescind their offer.

What About Medical Marijuana?

Surely, most employers are sympathetic to employees who need to take marijuana for medical needs.

Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case.

Many companies do not differentiate between recreational and medicinal marijuana. If you test positive for weed, that’s it. They don’t really care why you were taking it.

Now, of course, the situation varies from state to state and from company to company.

Some companies will allow you to keep using medical marijuana as long as you’ve informed them beforehand.

In some states, the courts are friendlier if you are fired or denied a job for using medical marijuana.

But even in a state as weed-liberal as Colorado, the courts may not help you out if you test positive after using medical marijuana.

A while back, the state’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that found that Dish Network was justified in firing a quadriplegic who used medical marijuana for seizures.

The Future of Drug TestingDrug Test

Many companies are likely to keep testing for marijuana and other drugs in the foreseeable future. Most have turned to hair testing which provides more accurate results of drug use over the last 90 days.

If you are a weed smoker and need to get a new job or hold down the one you have, your options are either to abstain completely or detox your hair just before the test using the Macujo or Jerry G method.

But it’s not all bad.

Some companies are beginning to see the pointlessness of testing for marijuana. Others are finding out that it’s hard to get skilled hires when they insist on drug tests.

According to Bloomberg, several companies have ditched drug tests or said they won’t penalize anyone who tests positive for weed.

They include Excellence Health Inc., a healthcare company in Las Vegas and AutoNation Inc., the largest car dealer in the US.

However, for companies with work involving heavy machinery or federal contracts, drug testing is here to stay and you don’t have the luxury of saying no.