Why suspicion-less employment drug testing is a bad idea

The federal government would like all companies to drug test all their workers, and so, of course, would the companies who make billions of dollars each year from the drug testing boom.

And yet, what value does suspicion-less drug testing actually serve? In most cases, less than none. Oh, sure, I know some defend the pre-employment drug test as a kind of intelligence screener (if you’re too dumb to figure out how to get clean long enough to pass one planned test…), but really? Do you need to pay a drug testing company for that information?

If your management can’t tell whether their workers are showing up impaired (whether from alcohol or other drugs, or sleep deprivation, or…) and unable to do their jobs, then you need to fire your management and get some competent people in there.

As I’ve indicated before, I’ve had the luxury of never working for a company that required drug testing. And I never will. Oh, I can understand that not everyone can do that, depending on the job market, and when I was younger, I might have worked temporarily for someone who required testing, but for a career? No way. Why would I want to spend my life in a career where my employer had so little respect for me as a person?

Ellen Comp has a nice piece on this topic focusing on another aspect of the downsides of workplace drug testing: Drug Testing Robs Workforce of Talent and Creativity

Second, by pre-screening away marijuana smokers, we’re weeding out (so to speak) some of our most creative and, I would argue, productive employees. If you doubt that marijuana smokers have contributed to our society, see VeryImportantPotheads.com. In the case of someone using marijuana for medical purposes, it’s downright discrimination to deny them employment for using what a doctor has legally recommended under state law.

Silicon Valley, the brainchild of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (who both admittedly smoked pot in their youth), notoriously does not drug test its employees, knowing they’d lose much of their talent that way. Yet the region is responsible for much of California’s economic productivity, in one of the few non-military industries the US has. Pot-friendly Hollywood is another shining example of an industry that exports instead of imports to the US, like most of our consumables.

Smart employers know that on-the-job impairment is better handled by proper supervision than suspicion-less drug testing, and that creating a workplace that welcomes and encourages talent and creativity is much more important to their success than tired federal drug-free-workplace slogans.


Note: I realize that many companies are required to have a drug free workplace policy if they have contracts with the federal or state government, but in most cases, those policies are not required to include suspicion-less testing, but merely an awareness program with rules against workplace drug use.

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