In 2020, Marijuana Drug Testing Positivity Continued to Increase Among U.S. Workers

Quest Diagnostics—A-Check’s drug screening partner and a leading provider of diagnostic services—released their 2020 Drug Testing Index. It is thought to be the first large-scale national analysis of U.S. workforce drug testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and includes findings from more than 9 million drug tests performed throughout 2020.

In general, the reported positivity for most drug categories—with the exception of marijuana—remained fairly flat, or somewhat declined, in the combined U.S. workforce. Overall, it was down slightly in 2020 (at 4.4%) compared to 2019 (4.5%). Throughout the safety-sensitive, federally mandated U.S. workforce (based on more than 2 million drug tests), positive drug test results declined from 2.4% in 2019 to 2.2% in 2020.

While COVID-19 altered the workforce landscape last year, the increasing positivity trend in marijuana testing continued, in part due to state-by-state legislation regarding adult medical or recreational use legalization. In the U.S. general workforce, marijuana positivity increased in urine testing (3.1% in 2019 versus 3.6% in 2020), in oral fluid testing (9.1% in 2019 versus 12.3% in 2020) and in hair testing (7.1% in 2019 versus 8.7% in 2020). Worth noting, especially as many companies are now initiating plans to return employees to the office. It’s important for employers to continue considering workforce drug testing as a key effort in maintaining workplace and employee safety.

Here are just a few findings from Quest:

  • While positivity is down for most drug categories, it increased very slightly for ecstasy—an increase from 0.008% in 2019 to 0.010% in 2020. Still, this represents a very low positivity number of 1 in every 10,000 tests overall.
  • Positivity rates declined in federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce testing categories. Cocaine declined to 0.25% positivity in 2019 versus 0.20% in 2020. Opiates represent a similar positivity decline from 0.26% in 2019 to 0.21% in 2020. In this category, positivity for marijuana did decline very slightly (0.88% in 2019 versus 0.79% in 2020).
  • Marijuana continued increases in the general U.S. workforce, with lower positivity rates in states with only medical marijuana use or no form of legalized marijuana use versus states with legalized recreational statutes.
  • The marijuana positivity rate of post-accident test results grew faster than the rate for pre-employment testing. In 2012 (when the first state legalized marijuana), Pre-employment marijuana positivity was 1.9% and post-accident positivity as 2.4%. Fast forward to 2020, pre-employment marijuana positivity reached 3.7% while post-accident positivity surged to 6.4%.
  • Cocaine positivity was the lowest since 2012 in the general U.S. workforce, falling to 0.22% in 2020 versus 0.27% in 2019.
  • Workforce positivity increased significantly in multiple industries with the Retail Trade sector continuing to top the list. For example, the Accommodations and Food Service category had the highest workforce positivity for marijuana at 6.3%.
  • More Quest insight can be found online within their 2020 Drug Testing Index.

Let’s work together for the continued safety of your workplace

Based on the potential for drug abuse due to ongoing COVID uncertainty, as well as personal and professional life stress, it stands to reason that you continue your company’s focus on workplace safety, as well as all employee health concerns.

Whether you are maintaining a remote workforce well into the future, have begun bringing employees back into the office, or are implementing a business plan that builds on a hybrid workforce (as so many now are choosing to do), screening your employees for substance abuse can greatly help ensure you’re doing all you can to promote a safe workplace and healthy, productive team members.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss your options, what you currently might have in place, or to help you build an effective, compliant drug screening program for your company. We’re here to help, and as always, truly appreciate your call and your business.

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