In the US, marijuana legalisation has had serious ramifications for businesses. Increased marijuana availability and use has increased the number of employees testing positive for marijuana in the workforce.

In the three-year period following legalisation in Colorado and Washington, positive oral-fluid test results for marijuana use increased almost 75%, from 5.1% to 8.9%. Marijuana urine test results in Washington and Colorado are now double the national average.

This growing demand for marijuana has made it difficult to find employees who can pass a pre-employment drug test. The issue is further complicated by pro-marijuana advocates who are pushing to eliminate workplace drug testing policies – essentially stating that regardless of the outcome, employees should be permitted to use marijuana without the risk of professional consequences.

This argument has been used in New Zealand by pro-marijuana lobbyists. In May 2018, the Drug Foundation said, “Drug testing is not going to create a safer working environment and can create an atmosphere of mistrust.”

Insurance claims have become a growing concern among companies in US states that have legalised marijuana because if marijuana use is allowed or drug testing ignored, employers are at risk of liability claims when a marijuana-related injury or illness occurs onsite.

Studies consistently show marijuana users have significantly lower levels of commitment to their work than non-users, and are more absent. Even when controlling for alcohol use, pot users are 106% more likely to have missed at least one day of work in the last month because they “just didn’t want to be there.”
Study on commitment: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2014)


If marijuana is legalised in New Zealand, what will be the added costs to the workforce in absenteeism, accidents, healthcare, additional workplace training and insurance premiums?

The Drug Detection Agency has been New Zealand’s biggest drug testing company for 13 years. They recently said that methamphetamine and cannabis are both “on the up” and they are still the main drugs being used.

The Gisborne Herald reported that the rate of Gisborne people unable to pass pre-employment and workplace drug tests because of “meth” use has more than doubled over the past year. And the results for more than half of people asked to take random tests at work showed drug use of some sort. Cannabis is the most detected drug.