Following a wave of states legalizing adult-use cannabis, there has been a growing link between on-the-job accidents and positive cannabis tests, according to data released Thursday by Quest Diagnostics.
The testing data showed that people who tested positive for cannabis in their system after an accident increased to 7.3% in 2022, up from 6.7% in 2021. That itself represents a 9% increase, and was the highest level seen in 25 years.
Over the past decade, post-accident marijuana positivity has tripled, Quest Diagnostics said. That trend reversed a decline in post-accident marijuana tests from 2002 to 2008.
Colorado and Washington State legalized adult-use cannabis in 2012. That number will grow to 23 U.S. states, as Minnesota is set to push a final version of the state’s adult-use cannabis law to the governor’s desk in the near future.
Katie Mueller, a senior program manager focusing on cannabis safety at the National Safety Council, said in a statement that state legalization of the drug creates new challenges for employers.
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“The Quest data provide compelling evidence that increased use of cannabis products by employees can contribute to greater risk for injuries in the workplace,” Mueller said.
Employers should take proper steps to maintain or write policies addressing cannabis use and educate employees, along with efforts to encourage a “safety-focused” culture, she added.
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Quest Diagnostics also reported that the overall positivity rate in the combined U.S. workforce for all drugs remained flat in 2022 at 4.6%, based on more than 9 million urine drug tests.
Overall workforce positivity for cannabis — not just in accidents — increased to 4.3% in 2022 from 3.9% in 2021, while amphetamines use increased to 1.5% in 2022 from 1.3% in 2021.
Workforce positives increased the most in accommodation and food services (up 42.9%) in the past five years, followed by the retail sector (up 42.6%) and finance and insurance (up 38.5%).
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“Changing societal attitudes about marijuana may be impacting workplace behaviors and putting colleagues at risk,” Keith Ward, Quest Diagnostics general manager and vice president for employer solutions, said in a statement. “The increase in amphetamines positivity is also notable, given the addictive potential and health risks associated with this class of drugs.”
The data come as Congress takes up a SAFE Banking Bill to open up the financial system to legal cannabis companies, and as other states such as Florida and Pennsylvania potentially move toward adult-use cannabis in coming years.
As cannabis remains in the public spotlight, new data and studies emerge almost on a daily basis.
An academic study entitled, “Assessment of Medical Cannabis and Health-Related Quality of Life” released May 9 by Thomas R. Arkell, Luke A. Downey, and Amie C. Hayley, suggested that medical cannabis treatment may be associated with improvements in health-related quality of life among patients with a range of health conditions.
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