Policymakers in Michigan are considering major changes to the state’s drug testing policy, particularly as it pertains to cannabis use.
The potential changes come more than four years after voters there approved a ballot measure that legalized recreational pot use for adults aged 21 and older.
In a letter sent earlier this month to human resources officers, the state Civil Service Commission asked for public comment as it mulls various tweaks to the Michigan policy.
“Recent years have seen changes across the country in state laws regulating controlled substances. Michigan voters legalized marijuana’s medicinal use in 2008 and recreational use by adults in 2018,” read the letter, which was sent on May 12. “In light of these changes, commissioners have requested circulation for public comment of potential regulation amendments to end the pre-employment testing requirement for marijuana for classified employees hired into non-test-designated positions. Ending this pre-employment testing for marijuana would not affect the availability of reasonable-suspicion or follow-up testing for marijuana of classified employees, including candidates who become employees.”
The letter explains how in the late 1990s, “collective bargaining agreements added provisions allowing similar reasonable-suspicion, follow-up, random selection, and post-accident drug-testing of exclusively represented employees. Federal law also requires pre-employment and employee testing of some test-designated positions operating certain vehicles.”
“The 1998 rules directed the state personnel director to establish prohibited levels of drugs in regulations. Those regulations—and collective bargaining agreements—called for testing under procedures established under federal law. While the regulations technically allow agencies to request approval to test for any drug in schedule 1 or 2 of the state’s public health code, the default testing protocol used by the state since 1998 has tested for five classes of drugs: marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and phencyclidine,” the letter read.
The letter also noted that, since the new cannabis law took effect in December of 2018, “approximately 350 applicants for classified positions have tested positive for marijuana in pre-employment testing.”
Under the current Michigan rules, those applicants are precluded from applying for another job with the state for three years.
“While many of these sanctions have since lapsed, a few hundred remain in effect. The commission could adopt rule language allowing amnesty through rescission of continuing sanctions based on a pre-employment drug test for a non-test-designated position with a positive result for marijuana. Such action would not result in employment for these candidates but would allow them to apply for classified positions rather than waiting three years after being sanctioned,” the letter said.
As states have lifted their long standing prohibition on recreational pot use, lawmakers and regulators have recalibrated drug testing policies to bring them in line with the new cannabis laws.
Earlier this month, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law that will enshrine protections for employees from getting tested for cannabis.
The legislation says that it is “unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in the initial hiring for employment if the discrimination is based upon: (a) The person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace; or (b) An employer-required drug screening test that has found the person to have non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in their hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids.”
Professional sports leagues have similarly followed suit. A new collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players that was ironed out last month will remove cannabis from the list of banned substances. The new deal will also permit players to promote and invest in cannabis companies.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver telegraphed the reform as far back as 2020.
“We decided that, given all the things that were happening in society, given all the pressures and stress that players were under, that we didn’t need to act as Big Brother right now,” Silver said then. “I think society’s views around marijuana [have] changed to a certain extent.”