• James Lane

How State Legalization of Marijuana Impacts Drug Testing, Recruitment, and Selection in Corporations

Updated: Sep 17



Introduction


This article explores the implication of drug legalization as it pertains to recruiting and hiring practices. For purposes of clarity and simplicity, this article will focus on marijuana. Many states have legalized marijuana for recreational and medicinal use, yet the federal government still considers it a schedule one narcotic, and highly illegal. Because of this problem in definition, legality, and concurrence, many businesses face the challenge of holding potential and current employees to federal standards. At the same time, they live, work, and operate in a state with much looser rules. Over the next few sections, a brief history of the plant will be discussed, drug-testing, legalization, and the hiring process will be addressed, and of course, the conflict between them both. The literature from these sections will be analyzed, and the results this researcher ascertained will be presented to the reader with clarity and precision. The goal of this writing is to enlighten the reader to the real conflict that exists between employers, the federal, and the state governments.


Brief History of Marijuana in the United States


Marijuana (Cannabis) has been in the United States for centuries, with evidence and writings describing its use from hemp for textiles and ropemaking. The plant was never an issue and did not become front and center again until the early twentieth century when the name cannabis was traded for the name marijuana, a word used to fuel racial tensions between North Americans and Mexicans. Fast-forwarding to the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, this tax wiped out the plant due to its high cost. Between the reefer madness propaganda of 1936 and the Controlled Substances Act of 1971, marijuana had been demonized and barred without much research or wherewithal. Beginning with the first legalizations of medical marijuana in the 1990s to the ongoing marijuana legalization revolution of today, many conflicts now exist between what is legal and what defines ethics, especially in the workplace (Sraders, 2018).

There are many different schools of thought on the legalization of certain drugs for medicinal and recreational use. This article examines factual information, not feelings, opinions, or hunches. Considering the aforementioned, it is essential to understand that without the necessary research (which is only now being conducted), all information that is deemed to be factual, may also be regarded as feelings, opinions, and hunches. The next section considers the conflict between drug legalization and how to employ people ethically.


Drug Testing, Legality, and the Hiring Process


Drug testing has been a mainstay of Human Resource Managers for a very long time. This thought to be an essential step in the hiring process has aided businesses in keeping profitable and compliant with state and federal laws since national acceptance decades ago (Russell & Sircus, 2019, par. 1). With the recent and rapid changes to state marijuana legality, many employers have faced unforeseen challenges. Federal law still says that marijuana use is one of the big unforgivable yet dozens of states (and more to come) beg to differ.

For a large corporation that operates nationally, not only must they be compliant with state law, they also must remain compliant with federal. Even beyond this, figuring out what is or is not acceptable is still one vast mystery. The aforementioned makes the most natural approach for a business to follow, the strictest law, federal; this means that just because someone can smoke a joint just like drinking a beer, a company reserves the right to test for marijuana and not the beer regarding hiring (though an apparent alcohol problem or incident can trigger testing and consequences). The previous statement creates a largescale ethics conflict.


Confliction Between Drug Legalization and Ethical Employment


The conflict between statewide drug legalization and ethical employment is easily summed up in the following quotation. “Employers with federal contracts or those whose employees are licensed through federal agencies are legally required to screen job candidates for drugs, including marijuana, which remains a Schedule 1 drug in the federal government’s view” (Hyman, 2019, par. 11). Building upon this statement, most companies in the United States have full force zero-tolerance policies regarding drug and alcohol use. The problem with these zero-tolerance policies is that each state and company seems to do it slightly differently. The difficulty in clearing defining a standard creates significant challenges and liabilities for companies (Sparkman, 2019). Knowing what is right and wrong cannot be defended unless there is a standardized definition of what is right and wrong and what is deemed acceptable. The previous will be discussed in the analysis as well as the results sections.


Analysis


Reviewing the literature on this subject puts a few critical issues into perspective. First, the history of marijuana legislation seems to be shrouded in mystery with unclear explanations other than political as to explain early restrictions. Second, multiple generations of people with many different views of the plant exist at the same time (this is not touched upon but noticed as the sources are examined). Finally, the states and the federal government cannot seem to agree on what makes something a drug and what does not. The results of this are displayed in the upcoming section.


Results


The result is straightforward: until the federal government and the states agree on a clear and bi-partisan definition for these previous drugs, which are becoming more and more legal at the state level, businesses will never have any other direction to go, but zero-tolerance. Ethics can be discussed all day, but the bottom line is that personal ethics and morality differ slightly, person to person. A company does not have the luxury of making many ethical mistakes as people do, so unless a clear directive comes from a standard approach, most companies will take the safest path. The most reliable route is, of course, following federal law over state law. Plain and simple, nothing will be impacted (besides upticks in retention/selection quality) because not much will change (corporately) until federal changes are made.


Conclusion


This article explored the implication of drug legalization as it pertained to recruiting and hiring practices. For purposes of clarity and simplicity, this article focused on marijuana. As stated previously, many states have legalized marijuana for recreational and medicinal use, yet the federal government still considers it a schedule one narcotic, and highly illegal. Because of this problem in definition, legality, and concurrence, many businesses face the challenge of holding potential and current employees to federal standards. At the same time, they live, work, and operate in a state with much looser rules. This article, over the previous few sections, presented a brief history of the plant and discussed drug-testing, legalization, and the hiring process; the conflict between them both was then introduced. The literature from the preceding sections was analyzed, and the results this researcher ascertained were presented to the reader. The results presented exclaimed the necessity for the states and the federal government to come to an agreement and definition and legality.


[Note: Our bloggers are independent writers with their own constitutionally granted opinions, viewpoints, interpretations, and feelings. Their views do not always represent that of American Reveille LLC. Regardless, we support their right to free speech and a medium to express it! Got a problem with that? Go somewhere else!]


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