Marijuana positivity in America’s workplace


Marijuana use continues to be a complex issue and drug testing provides an objective view into its use in the workforce. Data reveals continual increases in marijuana positivity rates across industries, workforce categories, and specimen types (urine, oral fluid, and hair).  

We publish a series of reports and resources that examine the patterns and trends of marijuana use in the American workforce. These tools can help to inform and educate employers as they consider the most effective strategies to create safe, drug-free workplaces.

Marijuana use in the U.S. workplace

Marijuana is the most commonly detected illicit drug. According to the latest Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™, the rate of marijuana positivity increased in nearly all workforce categories.

In the general U.S. workforce, marijuana positivity increased nearly 8% in urine testing (2.6% in 2017 versus 2.8% in 2018) and almost 17% since 2014. For the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, which uses only urine testing, marijuana positivity grew nearly 5% between 2017 and 2018 and nearly 24% since 2014.

Download the latest Drug Testing Index brochure for more information.

Marijuana positivity by industry 

Marijuana was the most commonly detected drug, with the highest positivity rates, in the majority of sectors. Our Industry Insights report showed that positivity for marijuana increased by double digits in 8 of the 17 sectors in our analysis for each of the years between 2015 and 2018.

In 12 sectors, the growth rate (9.1% to 25.0%) in marijuana positivity between 2017 and 2018 was higher than the overall growth rate (7.7%) observed in the general U.S. workforce during the same time period. In 10 of the sectors examined, the growth rate in marijuana positivity between 2015 and 2018 was greater than 25%. The Accommodation and Food Services sector had the highest marijuana positivity rates in each of the four years analyzed.

To see the industry-specific data, download our DTI Industry Insights brochure

Marijuana positivity by state

The national positivity rate for marijuana in 2018 was 2.3%. However, in many states, positivity were higher than average. Over the past 5 years, marijuana positivity in the majority of states with legalized, recreational marijuana has increased at a higher rate than non-recreational states (17%). For example, Oregon has seen 126% increase in marijuana positivity since legalizing the drug in 2014 and Nevada has seen a 119% increase in marijuana positivity since legalizing in 2016.

We offer an interactive U.S. map that shows marijuana positivity rates in urine drug testing by 3-digit zip code. Search for your hometown and see how marijuana use in your state compares to the country.

Marijuana laws by state

States continue to pass legislation regarding permissible uses of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes. To date, 33 states and Washington, D.C. have medical marijuana laws and 11 of those also passed recreational use laws. Despite ongoing changes to state legislation, marijuana (and its derivatives like CBD), remains part of the federal government’s Controlled Substances Act, and is categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance.

View our infographic to see marijuana laws by state.

Watch a webinar to hear scientific and legal experts discuss topics related to marijuana.


As an industry leader, we continue to examine the data and uptick of marijuana positivity rates together with the legal status of marijuana by state. The landscape continues to change and the issues become more complex, especially in the workplace. We are committed to providing data and technical expertise to help employers evaluate the big picture. One of our most popular resources, our marijuana white paper, helps to provide insights into the value of drug testing in this new era of marijuana.

For more information about drug testing, visit our website or contact us online.