Whether about legality, side effects, or employers’ ability to test for it in employee drug screens, questions about marijuana are plentiful. We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions to help you sift through the noise and get a true sense of the current status of marijuana.
What is marijuana?
Marijuana is the product of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, containing the psychoactive chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other related compounds. Popular names, or slang, for the drug include weed, pot, or cannabis.
How is marijuana used?
The ways in which people consume marijuana vary greatly and have increased as more states allow its use for medicinal or recreational purposes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), marijuana can be smoked like tobacco in a cigarette or pipe to inhale oils, concentrates and extracts; or ingested in food, referred to as marijuana edibles. Additionally, recent findings from the Monitoring the Future survey reveal a sharp rise in teenagers vaping marijuana.
Read the most common questions about marijuana.
What does marijuana do to you?
There are many myths about marijuana and its impacts on health. Although public attitudes about the drug continue to change, marijuana users may experience both short- and long-term side effects.
- Short-term effects may include altered senses, changes in mood, impaired body movement, difficulty with problem-solving, impaired memory, hallucinations, delusions, and possible psychosis when taken in high doses.
- Long-term effects may include brain development issues; breathing problems and higher risk of lung infections when smoked; increased heart rate, of concern to those predisposed to heart conditions; and worsening symptoms in those with schizophrenia.
How many people use marijuana?
Marijuana remains the most-used illicit drug globally with upwards of 188 million users in the past year, according to the most recent World Drug Report. In the United States, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that 22.2 million people have used marijuana in the past month.
Can my company still drug test for marijuana?
Yes. There are currently no restrictions (other than New York City, which is expected to implement restrictions beginning in May 2020) limiting an employer’s ability to drug test for marijuana, although there may be limitations on permissible disciplinary action that an employer may take if an employee is using marijuana in accordance with that state’s marijuana laws. In general, state medical and recreational use statutes impact only a very small number of employees in most workplaces. Today, more than 97.6% of all non-regulated drug tests performed by Quest include marijuana in their panel.
What is the marijuana positivity rate for workplace drug tests?
Data from the latest Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ gives insights into marijuana use in the American workforce. In the general U.S. workforce, marijuana positivity increased nearly 8% in urine drug testing (2.6% in 2017 versus 2.8% in 2018) and almost 17% since 2014. For the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, marijuana positivity grew nearly 5% between 2017 and 2018 and nearly 24% since 2014.
Watch a webinar to hear scientific and legal experts discuss topics related to marijuana.
How is marijuana classified under Federal law?
States continue to pass legislation that permits medical and recreational marijuana use. To date, 33 states and Washington, D.C. have medical marijuana laws and 11 of those states also passed recreational use laws. But in spite of state law, marijuana–and its components, like CBD—is still illegal under Federal law, and categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
View our infographic to see marijuana laws by state.
How can states continue to pass medical and recreational marijuana legislation if marijuana is illegal under federal law?
Even though marijuana is illegal for any purpose under the CSA, the enforcement of the CSA is within the discretion of the Federal government. During the Obama administration, Federal agencies, including specifically the U.S. Department of Justice, deprioritized marijuana enforcement in states with medical marijuana laws through policy guidance. Congress has also previously passed statutory budget amendments to limit Federal agency enforcement initiatives that interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
Download our Guide for Drug Testing Laws
Is medical marijuana safe?
Marijuana advocates, especially those in states where marijuana has been legalized, openly broadcast claims that he drug is “safe” and benign. But there are many misconceptions surrounding the drug and its safety. For example, the drug’s current classification under Federal law means the substance has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse like heroin or ecstasy.
Additionally, substance use disorders related to marijuana are becoming more common. A study conducted by the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions found that nearly 3 out of 10 marijuana users described having what can be categorized as a marijuana use disorder. Additionally, marijuana use disorders more than doubled from 2001 to 2013. Research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) also shows that marijuana use disorders often go untreated, are about twice as common in men than women, and are more frequently seen in people under the age of 45.
Download our marijuana white paper about the “new age of marijuana” and the importance of maintaining marijuana testing in a drug-free workplace program.
Does cannabidiol (CBD) show up on a drug test?
Maybe. CBD itself would not report positive on a drug test for marijuana or marijuana metabolite. In some states, CBD may (add legally) contain up to 5% THC. While some states permit the sale of CBD, many of those states only permit relatively low levels of THC in CBD products. But if a CBD product contains THC at a sufficiently high concentration, it is possible that the use of these products could cause a positive urine drug test result.
It is also important to remember that for federally-mandated drug tests, the use of CBD or “medical marijuana” would not be considered an alternative medical explanation for the positive test result. Moreover, as a Schedule I substance, CBD is illegal at the Federal level. While there are some states that permit the sale of CBD, many of those states only permit relatively low levels of THC in CBD products.
Can secondhand marijuana smoke render a positive drug test?
We asked Dr. Barry Sample, Senior Director of Science & Technology at Quest Diagnostics, to share his expertise to clear the air about the question. He said, “There are no published, peer-reviewed studies to date that indicate, even with today’s increased concentrations of THC in marijuana, that someone would test positive due to ‘passive’ or ‘incidental’ exposure at events such as parties or concerts.” Lean more about if you can fail a drug test from secondhand smoke.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), after examining research that measured factors such as drug potency, hours of exposure, and room ventilation, concurs, reporting that it is unlikely secondhand smoke could give someone a “contact high” that would trigger a positive test result.
Quest Diagnostics offers workplace drug testing for marijuana using urine, oral fluid, and hair. Oral fluid testing technology has proven very effective in detecting recent marijuana use. It’s important to select a test type and drug cut-offs for your workplace program that will effectively screen for the drug.
This blog is not intended for the purposes of legal advice and shall in no way constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney to determine legal obligations or course of action.