With the recent rise in weed reform across the U.S., it makes sense that more Americans are using cannabis today. Now, the most recent analysis from Quest Diagnostics medical lab and testing company paints an even clearer picture, specifically with a focus on positive cannabis drug tests.
In its most recent annual analysis, Quest found that the percentage of general U.S. employees who tested positive for cannabis in 2022 increased its highest level in 25 years, according to a Quest
Test Results in Line With Legalization Trends
Quest notes that the new peak follows a steady increase in positive post-accident cannabis tests for every year from 2012 to 2022; post-accident cannabis positivity increased 204.2% during this time, while it declined from 2002 to 2009. The recent increase coincides with the legalization of cannabis in the U.S., as Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use in 2012.
Last year also saw a combined U.S. workforce urine drug positivity for all drugs at a rate of 4.6% — the highest level in two decades. The 2021 and 2022 rates were specifically the highest since 2001, up from more than 30% from an “all-time low” in 2010-2012, according to Quest.
“In the general U.S. workforce, states that have legalized recreational and medical marijuana use exhibit higher positivity rates than the national average. States that have not legalized marijuana appear to have positivity rates below the national averages,” said Dr. Suhash Harwani, PhD, the senior director of science for Employer Solutions at Quest Diagnostics. “Overall, post-accident and pre-employment positivity test rates among the federally mandated, safety-sensitive population have always been lower, suggesting the expectation of testing may be a deterrent.”
Quest notes that cannabis was the “main driver” of workforce positivity increase in the general U.S. workforce, while amphetamines positivity also contributed. Positivity in the general U.S. workforce increase 10.3%, while amphetamines positivity increased 15.4%, from 1.3% in 2021 to 1.5% in 2022.
The company’s amphetamines data does not differentiate between prescription medication and illicit drug use, but the increase correlates with other data suggesting that amphetamine use, illicit or not, has grown in the U.S. in recent years.
An Important Distinction: Detecting Current Impairment
Keith Ward, general manager and vice president for Employer Solutions at Quest Diagnostics, said the results suggest that “changing societal attitudes about marijuana may be impacting workplace behaviors and putting colleagues at risk.”
Similarly, Katie Mueller, a senior program manager at the National Safety Council focusing on cannabis safety, cited safety issues around cannabis use on the job, specifically slow reaction time, impacted memory and impaired skills when driving.
“The Quest data provide compelling evidence that increased use of cannabis products by employees can contribute to greater risk for injuries in the workplace. It is imperative employers take the proper steps to create and maintain a policy that addresses cannabis use, build a safety-focused culture and educate the workforce to keep all workers safe on and off the job,” Mueller said.
While the analysis involves post-accident urine tests, it’s important to note that there is still no method that can reliably test for
A number of THC breathalyzers are in the works, though the technology is still in development and has not been perfected. There are a number of flaws to the current approach, mainly that most of these cannabis breathalyzers only work for flower and inhalable products, effectively letting consumers who use cannabis in other forms off the hook.
In a recent
Potentially Misleading Conclusions
Depending on a number of factors, including frequency of use, quantity of cannabis and cannabinoids consumed, body, metabolism and more, cannabis can stay in the body and come up on a urine test anywhere between a few days to 30 or more days after use.
While this analysis, and previous year’s analyses, is telling in regard to the general prevalence of cannabis use among working Americans as laws continue to change, it is not an indication that more are under the influence of cannabis while on the job by itself, as some of the post-analysis discussion may imply.