Stoned at Work: Is Marijuana really a Workplace Hazard?

Using marijuana on the job may seem like something to avoid. But new findings reveal no link between positive urine tests and workplace accidents.

Drug screening is standard at many U.S. companies. More than 125 million urine tests were administered nationwide between 1988 and 2012. And while marijuana use is legal in more than 20 states, federal law still permits employers to fire anyone who tests positive for the drug.

But new research, published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, brings into question the true hazards of having traces of marijuana in your urine.

“This study fell short of finding an association between marijuana use and involvement of workplace accidents,” wrote study author James Price, DO of St. Mary’s Occupational Medicine Clinic in Indiana.

The study compared the proportion of marijuana positives found in post-accident verses random samples. Nearly 4000 samples from employees across 5 different states were studied.

The results showed marijuana positives turn up no more often in urine samples taken after workplace accidents than they do during random employee screenings. 

“It’s consistent with the traffic safety literature,” says Scott Macdonald, PhD, of the University of Victoria, who was not involved with the study.

The professor explains that urine tests are a poor measure of intoxication, despite their widespread use. Unlike blood samples, urine can contain metabolites of THC for days, sometimes weeks, after last use.

“If you smoked a joint the night before, are you at increased risk of a work accident? In my opinion, there’s very little evidence. It’s like having a drink or two the night before. But that’s what a urine test will pick up,” he says.

 Read More: Leaf Science

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