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Job Applicants Are Failing Drug Tests at the Highest Rate in 12 Years

States with legal recreational weed are seeing the biggest increase in positive tests for pot.

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Job applicants across the country are testing positive for recent use of marijuana and other drugs at the highest rate in 12 years, according to a new report by clinical lab Quest Diagnostics. An analysis of 10 million workplace drug screens has found that 4.2% of applicants tested positive for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine, or heroin. The most significant increase was in positive tests for pot, which rose to 2 percent last year, up from 1.6 percent in 2012.

In an oral fluid test, which tests for recent drug use rather than long-term drug use, positive tests for marijuana surged around 75% in the past four years, according to Quest. Colorado and Washington, the first two states to pass recreational legalization, saw increases of 11 percent and 9 percent respectively. Although legalization explains the boost in positive tests for weed, Quest noted that applicants are also increasingly testing positive for other drugs. Applicants testing positive for cocaine increased 12 percent in 2016, hitting a seven-year high, and positive tests for amphetamine increased by 8 percent.

Although the majority of U.S. states have legalized marijuana in some form, any employer can deny a worker a job if they use marijuana, even if they have a medical recommendation. 

“Ninety-nine percent of drug panels we perform in Colorado and Washington still test for marijuana,” said Barry Sample, author of the report. Pilots, truck and school bus drivers, security guards, and many other occupations are required by law to prove they aren't marijuana users before taking a job.

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