Rate of U.S. Workers Testing Positive for Marijuana Reaches 25-year High

An analysis by workplace drug testing provider Quest Diagnostics found that drug tests administered after workplace accidents in 2022 reached the highest level in 25 years for positive marijuana results. The analysis reviewed more than 10.6 million drug tests given after the workplace accidents, and positive marijuana urine results accounted for 7.3% of the tests last year. That figure was 6.7% in 2021.

The workplace drug testing provider suggests that the higher percentage correlates with some states legalizing marijuana. In fact, states that have legalized recreational and medical marijuana use noted higher positivity rates than the national average. To date, more than 20 states and the District of Columbia have made recreational marijuana use legal, while nearly 30 states legalized marijuana for medical use.

Of the more than 6 million people in the general U.S. workforce, 4.3% tested positive for marijuana in 2022— and post-accident marijuana positivity was 7.3%.

Quest Diagnostics credited higher shares of testing positive for marijuana and amphetamines with boosting U.S. workers’ overall drug positivity rates. For amphetamines, positivity increased from 1.3% in 2021 to 1.5% in 2022. According to the analysis, the rate for drugs overall in 2022 was 5.7%, up slightly from 2021.

Employer Takeaway

Quest Diagnostics data indicates increasingly higher workforce drug positivity across various industries and drug categories. This data may be a red flag for employers focused on employee wellness and safety efforts. The widespread legalization of marijuana may have contributed to a jump in test positivity, leading to additional workplace safety hazards. The analysis indicates a greater likelihood of workplace accidents and judgment errors when an employee is impaired by marijuana.

Regardless of state and local laws, employers should continue to consider the physical and mental health risks of marijuana— and how they can potentially show up in the workplace. Workplace laws make it increasingly difficult for employers to act on a positive marijuana test result. Therefore, employers should consider consulting with local counsel to ensure compliance with current workplace drug testing programs and discuss strategies for addressing substances in the workplace.

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