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Marijuana and Drug Testing

The laws surrounding the use of marijuana vary greatly from state to state. Many states have come to accept the use of marijuana for medical reasons, and a few others have even legalized it for recreational use.

But because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, this widely differing legislation can cause problems for a job applicant or employee who tests positive on a drug test.

Federal and State Drug Testing Laws

Under federal law marijuana (cannabis) is classified as a Schedule I substance. Employers in industries that are heavily regulated by the federal government (FAA, FMCSA, FTA, FRA, PHMSA, etc.) are mandated to drug test all new hires and screen employees on a random basis. Non-federally regulated employers aren’t subject to federal laws, but may still have to comply with state and local government laws regulating drug testing.

So how long can marijuana remain in a person’s system?

Though the effects of THC—the main chemical in marijuana—wear off within a few hours of ingesting marijuana, traces of the chemical can remain in the body for weeks. There is no perfect formula for determining exactly how long marijuana stays in someone’s system prior to performing a urine, saliva or hair drug test. However, people who smoked or ingested marijuana in the last:

  • 24-72 hours can fail a saliva test
  • 30-45 days can fail a urine test
  • Up to 90 days can fail a hair follicle test

Factors that can affect how long marijuana stays in a person’s system:

Frequency of use: Someone who has been using marijuana for many years or who uses it daily is likely to have a build-up of THC in their system, meaning it will take longer to leave the body.

Concentration levels of THC: Marijuana can have varying levels TCH potency. If marijuana with a higher THC potency is used, metabolites will remain in the body for longer periods of time.

Methods of use: How marijuana is used can have a significant impact on the amount of time it is detectable. If marijuana is smoked, the THC levels in the drug user’s body will drop within a few hours or days of ceasing use. However, marijuana will still show up on a urine or blood drug test for up to 45 days or more after the last time it was smoked. But if it is ingested, it is metabolized more slowly and will remain detectable longer.

Rate of metabolism: Every person who smokes marijuana has a rate of metabolism that is completely different and this can dramatically alter the way the body breaks down THC. In turn, this can very easily change how many days marijuana will stay in the users system, and ultimately result in a failed drug test.

General Health and Body Weight: THC is stored in the body’s fatty tissue. Those with less fat in their body will clear their system of THC faster than those who have more fat.

Employers have the right to maintain drug and alcohol free work environments through the use of substance abuse screening programs. They just have to make sure they are doing so in compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal laws and regulations. The best practice is to have a comprehensive drug testing policy which clearly informs applicants and employees of all expectations.

For further reference, here’s a great infographic from Quest Diagnostics that quickly illustrates marijuana legislation by state.

We are here to help!

If you have questions about developing a drug-free policy, or about your current screening program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Contact A-Check Global here to get started.

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Drug Testing Trends Spanning Three Decades

Date of Webinar: Thursday, November 15, 2018 at 11:00 AM PST

Subject Matter:

A-Check Global’s HR Impact Webinar series presents Quest Diagnostics delivering information on its Drug Testing index. Arguably the industry’s longest standing, most consistent and most frequently relied upon resource indicating the drug use patterns among American workers. We will share 30 years of data, milestones since the passage of the Drug-Free Workplace Act in 1988, and how a steadfast commitment to a drug-free workplace helps to keep employees safe, healthy, and productive.

To view this informative webinar simply click below –

Presenter:

R.H. Barry Sample, Ph.D. / Director of Science and Technology at Quest Diagnostics

Dr. Barry Sample, Senior Director of Science and Technology, Quest Diagnostics, received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and his doctorate in pharmacology from Indiana University and is a board certified forensic toxicologist. Dr. Sample joined Quest Diagnostics in 1991 and is responsible for the production and introduction of new products and services through new test and technology development. He also publishes the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index annually for government, policy makers, media and the general public.

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my A-Check—our online applicant portal—just got even better!

 

When it comes to background screening solutions, we believe the applicant experience is as important as the client experience. It stands to reason, when applicants find the employment process convenient and innovative, they’ll feel more at ease AND will appreciate that your organization is committed to providing a background screening program that’s as straightforward as possible. It’s a win-win.

That’s why we’ve recently enhanced my A-Check, our mobile-friendly, smart applicant portal. my A-Check offers our clients greater implementation flexibility, and your applicants an unrivaled user experience. More secure, more convenient, and more streamlined, my A-Check offers great updated features:

  • Applicant-managed login
  • Convenient self-scheduled drug screening
  • Easy, secure upload of applicant provided documentation
  • A Client-customizable interface
  • And much, more.

my A-Check is FCRA compliant, highly intuitive, and is carefully designed to help minimize errors and the need to enter duplicate data. And did we mention how simple it is? In fact, we can proudly report that the majority of applicants submit their completed form within just 10 minutes—or less! We invite you to see just how seamless and convenient the hiring process can be for your applicants.

 

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Drug Screening: The pros and cons of each method

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According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the organization that certifies drug screening laboratories, 28.6 million people aged 12 or older reported that they had used an illicit drug in the past 30 days. That corresponds to roughly one in 10 Americans.

The use of illegal substances in the work place is an ever present threat against safety and productivity. It is important to understand what resources are available to help you screen for any potential risks your company may have and which methods best fit your current need.

Here is a brief summary of four of the most common screening options:

Urine

A common misconception is that a urine drug screen tests for traces of the drug itself inside of the urine, when in actuality, it is testing for the metabolites that the body produces while processing the substance, which remain in an individual’s system much longer that the drug itself.

Consequently, urine drug screens offer a much longer window of detection than other methods of screening. This window is what has caused urinalysis to become the primary method of occupational drug screening and the industry standard for detecting recent drug use, typically one to five days.

Urine drug screens are also currently the only method that is allowed for federally mandated testing, such as Department of Transportation regulated employees.

One of the downsides to urine testing is the potential for adulteration for non-observed tests. While there is no way to guarantee that a test has not been tampered with, there are options available to test the integrity of the samples that are provided. Creatinine and pH values are two of the common measurements used for ensuring the integrity of a urine specimen and are available at most major testing laboratories.

Saliva

Oral fluid’s strength is its accuracy detecting drug use within 36 hours of initial use. If an employee is suspected to have been under the influence in the past couple of days, an oral fluid test is the best option for confirming substance abuse in that time frame. As a result, oral fluid testing is a popular option for reasonable suspicion and post-accident screening scenarios. Unfortunately, this also makes it a poor choice for any kind of drug screen that an employee or applicant has had time to prepare for.

Unlike most urine drug screens, an oral fluid test is completely observed, which makes adulteration much more difficult for an employee who is being testing. Most oral fluid tests can be performed onsite at the place of employment, which reduces collection fees and productivity loss during the time of collection.

Hair

According to Quest Diagnostics, hair testing detects twice the number of positives as urine tests. This could be attributed to the much longer window of detection that hair screening offers. Unlike urine and saliva testing, which can be used effectively between one to five days, hair testing can detect drug use and patterns of drug use for up to three months.

This extended period of detection makes hair testing ideal for random program and pre-employment testing scenarios, where an employer may want a better idea of an employee or applicant’s long-term drug use patterns.

Hair testing would not be ideal in situation where recent drug use needs to be evaluated, since it takes roughly two to three weeks for the hair to grow in and show any kind of drug use. Since 100-120 strands of hair are needed to properly complete the hair testing, issues may also arise in applicants or employees who have little or no hair on their bodies or heads.

Blood

There is no better option for testing active drug use in an employee’s system than a blood screen, which can tell exactly what is currently in an individual’s system at the time of testing. Drugs and alcohol are rapidly metabolized in the body, which allows substance abuse to be detected within minutes of entering an individual’s system. The downside to this procedure, is that metabolization also quickly eliminates drugs from the body, allowing substance abuse to be test for only a few hours.

Due to the invasive nature of a blood test and the very brief detection window, blood testing is usually reserved for reasonable suspicion and post-accident screening where active drug or alcohol use is likely.

If you have questions about your current screening program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. A-Check Global’s team of dedicated professionals is available to help and provide friendly, accurate guidance. Give us a call today at 877-345-2021, or email support@acheckglobal.com.

Drug Urine Saliva Hair Blood
Amphetamines 24-72 hrs 24-36 hrs 1-3 months 24 hrs
Cocaine 24-72 hrs 24-36 hrs 1-3 months 1-3 days
Opiates 24-72 hrs 24-36 hrs 1-3 months 1-3 days
PCP (occasional use) 1-5 days 24-36 hrs 1-3 months 1-3 days
PCP (chronic use) up to 30 days 24-36 hrs 1-3 months 1-3 days
THC (occasional use) 1-5 days <24 hrs 1-3 months 12-24 hrs
THC (chronic use) up to 30 days <24 hrs 1-3 months 2-7 days
Featured

Effective January 1, 2018: DOT Drug Screening Expands to Include Semi-Synthetic Opioids

Drug screen

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has ruled to adopt drug screening panels set by the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year, with changes in effect January 1, 2018.

What changes are being made to the panel?

The DOT has opted to expand the required panel to include the following Schedule II semi-synthetic opioids: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone. Technically, the DOT panel is still considered a 5-panel drug screen. The difference is in the expanded opioid coverage that will now be part of federal drug screening programs for urine testing. Many might be more familiar with these opioids from their pharmaceutical brand names: OxyContin®, Percodan®, Percocet®, Vicodin®, Lortab®, Norco®, Dilaudid®, and Exalgo®.

Additionally, Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) has been added as an initial test analyte, replacing methylenedioxy-N-ethylamphetamine (MDEA).

Why were these changes made?

Prescription drugs have become one of the most widely used, misused, and abused drugs in history. They are highly addictive and often prescribed as pain management for everything from minor procedures and broken bones to chronic conditions. In 2015, opioid misuse and overdose culminated in over 33,000 deaths for the year. In 2017, the current administration declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency.

The inclusion of these semi-synthetic opioids is the DOT’s response to this epidemic and an attempt to remove these drugs from the federal workplace environment.

What does this mean for employers? What is the impact to existing screening programs?

While employers are assured their employee pools are being tested for a commonly abused class of drugs not previously tested under the DOT panel, these changes will have some impact:

  1. There may be instances where employees who have not previously tested positive on their drug screens will now be showing positive on their results.
  2. Diligent reporting by the Medical Review Officer (MRO) may increasingly raise safety concerns or report an employee unqualified as part of a reasonable medical judgement.
  3. And, finally, a potential increase in drug screening price.

A little more about safety concerns raised by the MRO.

If the MRO believes there is a significant safety risk with the employee’s continued use of an opioid drug, then the MRO will now instruct the employee to have his/her prescribing health care provider (HCP) contact the MRO to discuss possible changes or discontinuance of the medication.

There are three outcomes for this process:

  1. If the prescribing HCP does not contact MRO within 5 days, the MRO will report a safety concern to the employer.
  2. If the prescribing HCP discontinues the medication or changes the medication to one that does not present a significant safety risk, the MRO will not report a safety concern to the employer.
  3. If the prescribing HCP contacts the MRO and states that the medication is not being changed or discontinued, the MRO will report a safety concern and recommend a fitness for duty evaluation of the employee.

The usual Federal Chain of Custody and Control forms (CCF) that we have now can still be utilized after Jan. 1, 2018 without issue until June 30, 2018 at all laboratories. After that, we will be required to use the newly updated CCFs for any federal drug screening.

How can I make sure that I am ready for the upcoming changes?

A-Check Global is your trusted partner during this change. If you have any questions surrounding your federal workplace program or changes to the DOT protocol, A-Check Global’s team of dedicated professionals are available to help, and can provide friendly, accurate guidance.

Give us a call today at 877-345-2021, or email support@acheckglobal.com.