The Michigan Civil Service Commission adopted a rule change last week that will end drug screenings for marijuana for applicants to many state jobs. The new rule overturns previous state policy that automatically disqualified applicants to state positions that tested positive for cannabis, although applicants to some positions will still be required to pass a marijuana screening before hiring.
The rule change effectively treats cannabis like alcohol for many applicants for state jobs. Pre-employment drug screenings will still be conducted to test for cocaine, opiates, amphetamines and phencyclidine, also known as PCP. The policy change, which goes into effect on October 1, also eliminates a current rule that bars applicants to state positions that test positive for marijuana from applying for another state job for a period of three years.
The rule change was adopted by the Civil Service Commission at its meeting on July 12. Commissioner Nick Ciaramitaro said the change is needed to comply with Michigan’s marijuana legalization statute, which was approved via a statewide ballot measure in 2018. Voters also legalized medical marijuana ten years earlier with the passage of a 2008 ballot proposal.
“Whether or not we agree with it or not is kind of beyond the point,” Ciaramitaro said in a statement quoted by MLive. “Use of marijuana on the job is different than having used it months before you take the test … It doesn’t make sense to limit our ability to hire qualified people because they took a gummy two weeks ago.”
According to the Civil Service Commission, nearly 350 applicants for state positions were eliminated from eligibility for employment based on a positive cannabis screening since recreational marijuana was legalized five years ago.
Michigan residents made the decisions to “treat marijuana, recreational marijuana, much like alcohol,” said Commission chair Jase Bolger.
“Not that anybody should be overindulging on alcohol on Friday night, I’m not suggesting that they should be getting high on Friday night,” Bolger added, “but to treat them the same when they show up to work on Monday morning seems consistent with the current public policy in the state.”
Some Applicants Still Face Testing For Cannabis
However, not all state jobs will be affected by the rule change. Negative drug screenings for cannabis will still be required for those applying to the Michigan State Police or the Department of Corrections or for healthcare positions, and applicants for state jobs that require driving, operating heavy machinery or handling hazardous materials.
Before the new rule was adopted, Bolger responded to public comments about the proposal, noting that state employees will not be permitted to use cannabis or be under the influence of marijuana while they are working. Screenings for marijuana will be permitted if an employee is suspected of being under the influence of marijuana while at work or as part of a job-related accident investigation.
“Because of ongoing testing requirements under federal law and safety considerations related to test-designated positions, the proposed amendments would preserve the status quo for pre-employment, random-selection, post-accident, follow-up, and reasonable suspicion testing for those positions,” the Civil Service Commission wrote in a memo outlining the policy change.
Peter Neu, a spokesperson for the Michigan Association of Governmental Employees, told local media that the group advocating for state workers is in favor of the rule change ending marijuana screenings for many government positions.
“We believe the changes appropriately bring Michigan Civil Service Commission regulations in line with laws passed by citizens in Michigan,” said Neu. “The state of Michigan currently has a recruitment and retention problem, and we believe the changes will help recruit a wider number of potential employees.”
Although he voted to approve the rule change, Michigan Civil Service Commissioner Jeff Steffel, a former 28-year state police trooper, said he’s “not totally on board.”
“Why is it the work done by our state employees any less important in terms of marijuana impairment than what it is for police officers, nurses, etc.,” he said. “So I think it is bad policy to not screen for marijuana and not prohibit those people from being employed.”
“I don’t care if someone uses marijuana; I don’t care about many of the social issues out there,” Steffel added. “Live and let live. I do care about performance of state government, and I would like us to continue testing for marijuana, because in three or four years, if we find there’s a problem, we can make changes.”
David Harns, a spokesman for the Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency, which is responsible for regulating cannabis marijuana while currently banning use by prospective employees, said the agency looks forward to complying with the new rules.