How Marijuana Is Impacting Workplace Safety
With recreational marijuana legal in AK, WA, OR, CO, and the Dist of Columbia, let alone other states in this next voting cycle, the number of people using marijuana in the United States is rising rapidly, and as a result, it is impacting the workplace. Drug testing services report more positive tests for marijuana, both in pre-employment drug screens and drug tests conducted for other reasons. In fact, CleanFleet’s own positive and refusal testing rates are above 1% in the last two years and has been on the rise over the last three years.
Workplace Safety Concerns
The most common reason why businesses institute a drug-free workplace policy is because many of their employees are involved in safety-sensitive tasks. These businesses want to ensure the health and well-being of their workers and they want to decrease their legal liability in the event an accident occurs. In particular, marijuana use has been linked to an increase in job accidents and injuries and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that the short-term effects of marijuana include impaired body movement, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving, memory problems, and an altered sense of time.
In May 2015, an article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine concluded that there is a likely statistical association between illicit drug use, including marijuana, and workplace accidents. The impact marijuana use makes on transportation safety can be especially alarming. The drug impairs attentiveness, motor coordination, and reaction time and impacts the perception of time and speed. Studies from NIDA have found that marijuana negatively impacts driving performance and other researchers have found that acute use of the drug increases the risk of crashes and fatal collisions. NIDA also reports that, since Colorado’s legalization of medical marijuana in 2009, the percentage of marijuana-positive drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes there has increased significantly.
Social Acceptance of Marijuana on the Rise
Social acceptance of marijuana may be increasing because fewer people understand the risk associated it’s use. In 2002, 38% of Americans age 12 and over saw great risk in using the drug once a month. In 2014, that number had fallen to 26.5%. Moreover, these relaxing of attitudes toward marijuana have coincided with an increase in marijuana’s potency. In the 1970’s, marijuana had a content of THC (marijuana’s active ingredient) of about 1%. Today, THC content is nearly 13% and some strains are advertised as having a THC content of around 25% or higher.
DOT Random Testing Rate Fell… What Should I Do?
Effective Jan 1st, 2016, the FMCSA announced that it is, “Reducing the minimum annual percentage rate for random controlled substances testing for drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) requiring a commercial driver’s license (CDL) from the current rate of 50% of the average number of driver positions to 25% of the average number of driver positions.”
As a company that employs commercial drivers, you might be asking yourself, “Should I lower my testing rate to 25% or not?” Our recommendation is to not lower your rate at least not yet.
Why the Testing Rate Fell
In order for the FMCSA to lower the random drug testing rate, the rate for positive, FMCSA-regulated random drug test results must fall below 1% for three consecutive years. For 2011, 2012, and 2013, the FMCSA has recorded a positive test result rate of 0.7%. This data is based upon FMCSA’s most recent survey (2013) of drug-test results from 1,654 different motor carriers. Combined, these carriers employ approximately 497,000 commercial drivers and 0.7% (34,790) tested positive for metabolites from controlled substances. In the 2012 and 2011 surveys, the estimated results were 0.6% and 0.9%, respectively.
While these numbers may show an encouraging trend, these surveys do not include refusals, failures to produce a sufficient urine sample without a medical explanation, and other situations, which are treated as a positive test. Furthermore, survey takers donate information on a volunteer basis, which many industry analysts believe discourage carriers with high positive testing rates from contributing information. Finally, these numbers fail to account for data from 2014 and 2015, during which time many states passed measures to legalize the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana. All of these factors give us reason to treat the FMCSA’s data on positive testing rates with greater suspicion.
Does This Data Reflect What We See Today?
For CleanFleet, our positive testing (including refusals) rate has increased over the last 3 years and the positive testing rate for 2015 is 1.45%, which is double that of the FMCSA and far above the 1% threshold. Our positive testing rate in 2013, the year of the FMCSA survey, was 0.96%. Over the next two years, we saw a 51% increase in positive test results! As CleanFleet is based based in Oregon, this increase above the FMCSA’s reported national survey results may reflect the legal recreational and medicinal use of marijuana in Oregon and Washington. However, as CleanFleet also services clients across the US, we have reason to believe that our numbers reflect wider trends in the increasing use of controlled substances for commercial driver.
In addition to our stats, a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed an increase in individuals who reported marijuana use over the past month, which rose from 6.2% of Americans over age 12 in 2002 to 8.4% in 2014. In addition, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that, since medical marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2009, the percentage of marijuana-positive drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes there has increased significantly.
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Proposed Legislation Could Make It Tougher To Cheat A Drug Test
By Gilman Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio
Wisconsin legislators are considering a bill that would make it a crime to possess, sell or advertise chemicals used to create synthetic urine in order to falsify results of an employer-mandated drug test.
Under current law in Wisconsin, an employee can be fired for trying to falsify a drug test by using synthetic urine. This measure would impose a fine of up to $500 and 30 days in jail for anyone using the substance, and up to $1,000 in fines and 90 days in jail for making or selling it.
An aide to state Sen. Robert Cowles, the Republican who wrote the bill, said there’s also good reason to penalize those who advertise or promote the product.
“When we Googled synthetic urine, there were was about 50 websites that were on the Internet showing how to utilize, what chemicals can be used to mask it,” said Heather Moore. “And that was just one Google search.”
Fourteen other states have already adopted similar laws. Backers of the bill say it can play a role in fighting the state’s heroin epidemic. [As of Feb 2014, these states prohibit the sale of synthetic urine: Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.]
America’s Painkiller Epidemic Grips The Workplace
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, recently referred to opioid abuse — including prescription painkillers — as “a growing epidemic that is gripping our country.”And increasingly, that grip includes the American workplace.A new survey, the first of its kind, conducted by the National Safety Council (NSC), along with Indiana’s attorney general, concluded that 80 percent of Indiana employers have been impacted by prescription drug misuse and abuse by employees.Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the NSC, told CNBC that these issues are not just limited to Indiana.
“We would expect very similar results in many states,” Hersman said. “This is not a local problem; this is a national problem, and it’s very important for employers to understand this is an issue they need to pay attention to and not put their head in the sand.”
Millions of Americans are addicted to opioids, and the rate of death from addiction has tripled since 2010.