Drug Testing Guidance after COVID-19

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Big Idea: People have a problem that they don’t know about, they need to consider and plan for drug test upon re-entering workforce.

Topics to discuss:

  • More cannabis consumption during these times
  • People losing jobs, being furloughed, switching jobs
  • What to expect for drug tests after shut in place
  • Best practices for re-entering workplace after shut in place

One thing you probably haven’t considered during this COVID-19 pandemic is… how to pass a drug test. But for those looking to re-enter the workplace after the shut down, this question just might be one you will have to answer soon.

Covid-19 has radically changed our world and America’s economy.  Thousands of citizens head to file online unemployment, while thousands more spend their working days at home juggling day to day life along with home schooling and Zoom conference meetings.  What people in both these categories seem to have in common is the increased amount of cannabis being consumed while the country mandates physical distancing and shelter-in-place.

Whether your business had a temporary shut down and you’re wondering if/when doors will open again, or you now find yourself taking conference calls in your pajamas or maybe you recently lost work and find yourself at home alone all day unemployed…. whatever your situation, smoking a little or even a lot of pot is totally understandable during current conditions.

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Job Market Overview

March 2024, the US saw the highest monthly increase in unemployment numbers since the 1970’s.  As of the end of February 2024, ten million people are reportedly unemployed – which is still almost double pre-pandemic numbers.

For those still employed, Forbes reported that six out of every ten working Americans are now working from home.  Not all companies have the ability to have their employees remote; however, businesses that can adopt this working model have as more and more states have instituted shelter-in-place policies.

Transitioning Jobs

Luckily for the newly unemployed, there are many companies that are actually hiring during this Covid-19 crisis.  Health care companies as well as delivery companies and some banking institutions are being flooded by the demands of the epidemic.  To alleviate the change in customer needs at this time, many of these companies are opening job applications.

Some companies that have announced they are still hiring during the coronavirus pandemic include:

  • Amazon
  • Charles Schwab
  • CVS
  • Instacart
  • Inuit
  • Kroger
  • Wells Fargo
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Like many other companies across the nation, drug testing for employment can vary. Of all the companies listed above, Wells Fargo is the only one who does not have an employment drug testing policy in place.  Companies such as Amazon and Instacart, drug testing will depend on the position for which you are applying.  For companies such as CVS and Kroger, drug testing will vary according to location as well as position.  Charles Schwab, among many others, pre-screens their prospective employees with a background check and drug test.

Cannabis Consumption during COVID-19

It is no surprise that with the influx of people staying at home there was also a large spike in cannabis sales over the last few weeks.  As shelter-in-place began across the nation, pot smokers stocked up their marijuana supplies in preparation.

CNBC reported about the cannabis market, “Average store revenue is up 52% to 130% compared with January at more than 1,300 stores using cannabis e-commerce platform Jane Technologies.”

For many states where marijuana is legal such as California, dispensaries are considered “essential” and have been allowed to remain open.  Other states including New York, Washington, and New Mexico have deemed medical marajuana business essential.  Many of these states and others including Colorado, New Hampshire, and Oregon have loosened their laws for obtaining medical marajuana and have allowed things such as curbside pick-up and even phone prescriptions to be permitted.  Be sure to always check your state to determine legalities as they apply to your area.

Massachusetts closed its dispensaries and is seeing extreme fallout by the community.  Denver tried to shut its cannabis doors, but received such an outcry from the public that within 4 hours politicians removed the closure and announced the medical marijunana businesses could remain open.

As cannabis dispensaries and deliveries have remained operational during this pandemic, more marijunan is being sold than ever before.  Some medical marijuna companies are reporting more than 50% sales increases during the month of March compared to the month of January.

The long and short of this story is that amid all the uncertainty of Covid-19, people are turning to cannabis and consuming more than ever.

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Post-Coronavirus Drug Testing

Yes drug testing is and will still be a part of pre-employment screening both during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.  Many drug testing facilities such as Quest Diagnostics still have their doors open for employment drug testing.  Even with some facilities still open, companies and even the government recognize that previous mandates for drug testing employees may not be as readily available.  If it is an unreasonable expectation for a candidate to take a drug test during the coronavirus period with many testing locations shut down, the drug test may be skipped.

This is great news for all of those hitting the reefer more than usual.  However, most employers are adapting language to their hiring agreements that should they hire a candidate now, the company reserves the right to conduct additional post-hire background checks once resources such as testing locations become available again.

What this means is that while you may squeeze by without a drug test over the next few weeks, you better be prepared to take that test once the crisis subsides.

Best Practices

It may feel like this pandemic will last forever as no one knows exactly when the economy can return to some version of our previous normal.  However, contrary to how you may be feeling, sooner or later physical isolation will come to an end.  With this in mind, how can you best prepare to return to work or return to the job market?

First, it is important to know a company’s drug testing policy.  For those of you on temporary leave, dust off that old HR manual and be sure to read if drug testing is in your company’s protocol.  If you had to take a drug test to get the job, it is highly likely you will be tested again once business resumes.

For those of you unemployed during the crisis and are back to hitting the pavement on a new job hunt, assume a drug test will be required. 57% of all US companies conduct pre-employment drug testing.  Play it safe and be ready for any company that is hiring upon the end of shelter-in-place.

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Second step in being prepared to re-enter the job market – do a detox! Detoxing seems completely an unreasonable request as emotions of uncertainty and fear surround us as a nation right now.  However, we all know the pandemic will end eventually and it’s best to be prepared to be employable as soon as businesses are able to re-open. The question “how long does marijuana stay in your system?” is an important question to answer for yourself so you know how long you need to test clean. A THC detox may be necessary for your employment (learn more here).

You are not alone in your uncertainty of the future nor are you alone in your crisis cannabis consumption. Unfortunately, not all prospective businesses will be as receptive to the THC that could show up in your bloodstream. The best way to ensure you are ready for employment post this COVID-19 crisis is to know how to pass a drug test and be prepared to do so.