“We’re finding employers are taking a wait-and-see attitude,” said Christopher Geehern, executive vice president at Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “We haven’t seen any employers who currently have drug-testing programs decide not to drug test for marijuana.”
Geehern, whose Boston-based association comprises roughly 4,000 businesses of different sizes across the state, said the decision to continue testing for marijuana stems from multiple reasons, including workplacesafety concerns, lack of regulatory guidance and the discrepancy between state and federal law.
“A lot of our members are subject to federal law and specific federal regulations,” Geehern added. “Under federal law marijuana is still illegal.”
Employers without federal contracts are also hesitant to roll back drug testing for marijuana, as current testing methods make it difficult to determine whether someone is impaired in that moment, or had smoked a joint two weeks earlier.
Detectable amounts of the drug could show up in urine tests for several days to several weeks after consumption, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of course, not all employers require drug testing, but the question of impairment raises safety concerns among businesses and nonprofits with employees who drive, fly and operate heavy or potentially dangerous machinery.
“The commitment to workplace safety has not gone away, so I think companies are loath to turn their backs on testing for marijuana,” Geehern said.
Christopher Feudo, a labor and employment attorney at Foley Hoag LLP, a Boston-based law firm, largely agrees.
“We’re sort of in the Wild Wild West right now,” Feudo said. “It’s a big change for employers, so they’re all trying to figure it out.”
Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission issued regulations related to recreational marijuana, ultimately leaving the decision to drug test for marijuana up to employers.
“An employer may restrict the consumption of marijuana in the workplace,” the CCC told Wicked Local in June.