Posted in drug screening, Federal law, prescription drugs
As more and more states contemplate making medical marijuana legal (for those who have a doctor’s prescription), two U.S. Congressmen filed bills late last month in an attempt to end the federal government’s blanket ban on marijuana. The concern is that — while the current administration is fairly lax about enforcing the drug’s ban, allowing the states to determine if medical marijuana can or should be legalized — future administrations may crack down on federal bans and overturn all existing (and future) state laws that allow for legalized pot.
“While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters … to move forward, small business owners, medical marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration — or this one — could reverse course and turn them into criminals,” said Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, who introduced one of the two bills. “It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works, and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”
Together, if passed, the federal bills would relegate marijuana to the same class as alcohol, transferring its regulatory control to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as set up an excise tax on regulated cannabis. Neither bill would make marijuana legal in every state; it would still be up to each state to regulate and pass laws regarding its usage, production and sale.
Currently, four states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana usage, and 23 states have legalized cannabis for medical use. Meanwhile, other states continue to consider legalization.
Utah Sen. Mark Madsen has prepared a bill that would allow for medical marijuana dispensaries in the state — similar to state-run liquor stores — which could sell marijuana oils, lozenges and edible goods for those with a doctor’s diagnosis of specific medical problems. While Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has yet to see Sen. Madsen’s bill, his spokesman stated that he is opposed to medical marijuana being legal.
Tennessee is also considering two bills that state representatives hope will make medical marijuana legal. One of those bills would make it so users of the drug would not be able to be penalized by employers, landlords, educators or lawyers for utilizing the drug. Both bills are currently out at committee.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing policy, drug tests
In a move that goes against its former drug-policies, the NCAA may be tightening the reins for college athletes who utilize performance-enhancing drugs, while simultaneously lessening the consequences for those players that utilize recreational drugs such as marijuana and opiates.
The NCAA drug testing website currently states, “The NCAA shares the responsibility of promoting a drug-free athletics environment with its member institutions to protect the health of student-athletes and preserve fair competition.”
However, the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports is considering changing its policy on recreational drugs by “focus[ing] on educational programs instead of a traditional testing model.” The programs would include intervention and behavioral management programs, as well as “drug testing at the campus level,” though it is not specified how that testing would differ from the testing that the NCAA previously — and currently — is conducting.
“It is our hope the proposed model will address drug deterrence in the most effective way to change behavior,” said Committee Chair and Harvard’s Head Athletic Trainer Brant Berkstresser. “We feel that the NCAA should be focused on drug testing for those substances that may provide an unfair performance advantages.”
Athletes are currently tested for performance-enhancing drugs at least once a year.
Previously, recreational drug testing has not been shown to be much of a deterrent. The NCAA has been conducting drug tests on its student athletes for both performance-enhancing and recreational drugs since 1986, and in that time, it has not seen an overall decrease in positive drug tests.
In a news release, the committee stated, “Use of recreational drugs should absolutely be discouraged … but because they do not provide a competitive advantage, alternative approaches to testing should be developed.”
The release also said that those who are penalized for recreational drug use by losing their eligibility to play are more likely to drop out of school; however, allowing athletes to skirt the consequences of their actions provides another, perhaps unintended, lesson to those students.
photo credit: source via photopin (license)
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, drugs in the workplace
As states consider passing laws that allow for legal marijuana usage — and in the few states in which pot is already legal — some confusion may crop up for employers. There may be questions like, if the state allows for legal usage of the drug, are you as an employer still allowed to enforce a no-tolerance drug policy? Do your employees have rights when it comes to using cannabis — or being under the influence — in the workplace?
Because the law varies from state to state, the answers can be confusing at best. In fact, Colorado has formed a state Drug Oversight Committee to help answer questions such as these. Here are some of the Committee’s recommendations, as well as items to consider for your particular state.
1) Find out what your rights are as an employer. Colorado still allows employers to enforce zero-tolerance drug policies, and does not require employers to accommodate those who use marijuana legally. Employers may fire employees after a first failed drug test, even if the only thing the employee tests positive for is THC. The Committee states that most Colorado employers should not have to change their drug policies at all.
2) Make sure your policies are in writing, are filed with your human resources department, and are available to employees. Employees should know the rules of the company, what the policies are for drug testing (whether random, only after accidents, upon hiring, etc.) and what the consequences are if one fails a drug test. These policies should be distributed to employees upon hiring, and/or should be included in employee handbooks or on a computer network where employees can view it.
3) Keep up-to-date on legalization efforts, laws and bans in your state. Some states have laws regarding zero-tolerance drug policies, and instead require employees who test positive for drugs to be offered a chance to enter a rehab program for a first infraction, rather than immediate termination. Make sure your HR department keeps an eye on both your city and state legislative bodies, so you’ll understand the law as it applies to your business. Then, if there are any changes to the law, its enforcement, or users’ rights, you’ll be able to update your policies accordingly.
4) If you update your policies, make sure your employees know what changes have been made. This is just a good HR practice. It’s not fair to employees to change the standards of the company without informing them that expectations have changed. Plus, it may reduce the risk of litigation against the company in the future.
What tips would you add to this list?
Photo source: flickr
Posted in drug and alcohol testing, drug screening, drugs in the workplace, employee drug screening, pre-employment drug tests
When employers conduct pre-employment drug tests or enforce random drug testing, they typically have to hire a drug testing service or work with a local clinic to get results. However, new technologies from healthcare company Scanadu may eventually make pre-employment drug testing as simple as checking your phone.
Scanadu has introduced a device that may change not only the healthcare industry, but also how employers conduct drug tests. The device, called Scanaflo, is a urinalysis test kit that utilizes an iPhone app to scan used strips. The app differentiates colors on the strip that indicate the composition of the sample.
While the Scanaflo is currently only being marketed toward those who want or need to regularly monitor their health at home — such as pregnant women and the elderly — Scanadu co-founder Sam De Brouwer has noted that there may be opportunities for this device to be used for drug testing in the future.
Should a drug testing service choose to use this device as part of its service, the person conducting the tests would use his or her phone to scan the used strips. The phone app would immediately provide feedback regarding various chemical levels in the urine.
While organizations may see this as an opportunity to conduct urine tests on their own instead of hiring a drug testing service for screening, businesses should take caution. Drug testing laws vary state by state, and companies would be wise to continue working with these services in order to ensure they do not violate their employees’ rights or break any state or federal laws. (A few months back, nine employees in Ohio sued their employer — to the tune of $2.25 million — for violating their constitutional rights by subjecting the employees to “random” screening that seemingly only targeted one type of job within the organization.) Due to the complexity and fluidity of employment law, employers should continue to work with screening services whose job it is to keep up to date on the legalities.
This technology has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but Scanadu is hopeful that it will get the proper certifications from the FDA by the end of the year.
Image via 9to5Mac
Posted in drug screening, drug testing for welfare recipients, drug tests, welfare drug testing
Three years ago, Maine passed legislation that would require all welfare recipients to undergo drug tests in order to receive benefits. However, in all this time, the drug-testing program was not rolled out, as the state’s attorney general had yet to approve the plan.
However, in mid-January, the attorney general finally approved the program, provided the Department of Health and Human Services make some changes to the plan. One such change requires applicants of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program fill out a questionnaire that may help determine if applicants are likely to be taking illegal drugs.
The questionnaire is an effort to avoid the types of lawsuits that have been plaguing welfare programs in other states. (Florida’s welfare policy was rejected outright in a federal appeals court after all welfare applicants were required to pay for their own drug tests. The Maine drug tests are expected to cost $62 per person, presumably paid for by the DHHS.)
The questionnaire will ask applicants if they have been convicted of any drug-related felonies; if they have, they will be required to undergo drug tests. If an applicant fails the drug test, he or she may still be eligible for welfare if they get assistance through a rehabilitation or substance abuse program.
Welfare drug testing programs have not proven to be very effective. Other states that have unveiled similar programs — such as Tennesee and Utah — have found that only 1 to 2 percent of those applying for welfare benefits have tested positive for illegal substances.
Maine’s DHHS plans to begin drug-testing welfare applicants, but is not sure when they will get started.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, employee drug screening
Northern Ireland’s government has just approved a new drug-testing technology that the country’s Roads Safety Minister hopes will prevent residents from driving under the influence of drugs.
The portable device, called Drugwipe, can detect cocaine or marijuana in the body. It utilizes small amounts of saliva, and produces results in eight minutes or fewer. Drugwipe analyzes the saliva and indicates the presence of drugs via lines on the device that resemble those on a pregnancy test.
U.K. law enforcement intends to use Drugwipe on traffic stops when officers suspect drivers of operating their vehicles under the influence. If the test proves positive for drug usage, the driver will be taken to the police station for a blood sample.
“Those who get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs not only put their own lives at risk, but also those of innocent pedestrians, motorists and their passengers,” said Policing Minister Mike Penning.
A device by the same name is used in the United States in some police departments, prisons, and drug-testing facilities. That device is said to determine the presence of not only cannabis and cocaine, but also methamphetamines, amphetamines, opiates and other drugs by testing saliva, sweat, or even vehicle surfaces. Drugwipe is said to be more than 95 percent accurate in detecting the presence of illegal drugs.
Image via Alcolock
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drugs in the workplace, NFL drug testing
Under Minnesota’s Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (DATWA), having an employee confess to using drugs prior to completing a drug test does not have the same employment consequences as that same person actually having a urine drug test turn up positive.
This was recently brought up in court after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson told a drug-testing company employee that he “smoked a little weed” prior to completing a drug test, which was required as part of his bond after he was arrested in Texas.
According to the National Law Review, people who are required to take drug tests — either randomly for a job or as a condition for some prior arrest — often confess to doing drugs before they even complete testing. Minnesota employers are allowed to respond differently to an admission of drug usage than to a positive drug test.
DATWA makes no exceptions for confessions on company property; the employer may immediately terminate an employee that admits to using illegal substances, if that is consistent with company policy. In that situation, the employer is not responsible for ensuring the employee gets any treatment for a drug addiction.
However, if a Minnesota employee’s drug test comes back positive for the first time, the employer may not fire its employee, and instead must allow the employee to go through a rehab or treatment program. (After that program is completed, any positive drug tests may be grounds for termination.)
Employers should be aware of state laws when it comes to drug testing employees and what they are legally bound to do if drug tests come back positive. Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont have similar laws to Minnesota’s DATWA, in that the first positive drug test is not grounds for termination; Iowa employers have a responsibility to the employee after the first positive alcohol test, but not after a positive drug test.
The National Law Review encourages employers to proceed with drug testing as usual regardless of whether an employee has confessed to drug usage prior to testing.
Posted in drug screening, EEOC, Federal law
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed two separate lawsuits in October, both of which are for alleged discrimination against employees with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses must provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees and applicants, and businesses may not discriminate against those with disabilities during the hiring process.
Suits were filed against FedEx Ground in North Carolina, as well as a Wal-Mart in Maryland, for alleged violations to the ADA.
In the case of FedEx Ground, the EEOC claims that reasonable accommodations were not made for employees that are deaf or hard-of-hearing, as employees were not provided with a sign-language interpreter or closed captions during training materials and videos. The EEOC also claims that alternative safety equipment — that which uses flashing lights or vibrations instead of beeps or other sounds — was not provided to these employees.
A FedEx spokesperson denied these allegations, which were made after a mandatory EEOC tour of the package-sorting facility. “FedEx Ground is committed to fair and equal treatment of all employees and believes the claims made by the EEOC are misleading and not founded in law,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart provided a vague defense for its actions when it withdrew a job offer for a sales associate that could not submit to a urine drug test due to late-stage renal cancer. The prospective employee offered to submit to a different type of drug test, such as a blood test, and was told that Wal-Mart’s corporate office would not agree to a different test. The job offer was withdrawn when urine test results were not available within 24 hours of the job offer.
The EEOC filed suit against the store, and Wal-Mart agreed to pay the applicant $72,500, as well as train that store’s managers on accommodating applicants with disabilities.
Similar suits have also been filed against a Maryland Kmart and a Texas rehabilitation center for not making reasonable drug-testing accommodations for those with renal cancer.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing, drug testing policy, drugs in the workplace, employee drug screening, prescription drugs
Recently, the Georgia Council on Alcohol and Drugs hosted an event called “Drugs Don’t Work” in an attempt to discourage illegal drug usage in the workplace, particularly because 70 percent of the state’s illegal drug users can be found among its employed. The most commonly abused drugs? Prescription medications.
The Council is now providing incentives for businesses that implement drug-testing policies, as well as discouraging substance abuse by requiring that drug tests turn up clean in order for employees to maintain their jobs.
If Georgia businesses implement drug-testing policies — as well as programs educating and training employees about drug use and abuse, and counseling referral programs — they may be certified by the Council to receive a 7.5 percent discount on their Worker’s Compensation insurance.
This discount would be beneficial in more than one way; employers would not only pay less for the insurance, but by implementing education programs, they have a smaller chance of actually having to pay out Worker’s Compensation, as it is likely that sober employees, and those around them, would be at less risk for workplace accidents.
According to the Council, there is no one particular occupation or demographic that is most highly affected by drug use in the workforce, and that drug abuse can happen in any job.
Posted in drug screening, drug testing
Former U.S. Treasury Department employee and current California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari had an interesting idea. Lawmakers are constantly passing legislation about who should be background checked, drug tested, and investigated — in fact, California’s current Proposition 46, regarding drug testing for doctors, will be voted on in November — so why shouldn’t the legislators themselves be required to pass an annual drug test?
Kashkari expressed this sentiment during a stint as guest host on the Mark Larson radio show, though he said he thought that many lawmakers would not be okay with such a mandate.
“I think we should drug test legislators. Every statewide officeholder, and everyone in the Assembly and the Senate. Why don’t we just have an annual mandatory drug test?” Kashkari said on the air.
The candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Ron Nehring, also participated in the radio program, and Kashkari’s question came up during a discussion about legalizing marijuana, which current Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom supports. Both Nehring and Kashkari spoke about the possibility of proposing drug testing for legislators, though Nehring evaded a question about whether he specifically would be willing to participate in a drug test alongside Lt. Governor Newsom, by changing the direction of the conversation back to Proposition 46.
Kashkari was right about the legislator feedback regarding his comments; a spokesman for Democratic state Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg said, “The only thing tripping is Mr. Kashkari’s desperate campaign.”
Later on, after his comments were publicly aired, Kashkari claimed that he was joking, and quipped that IQ tests should be required instead.
photo credit: Un ragazzo chiamato Bi via photopin cc
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