LA Times Staff Protests Against Newspaper's Random Drug Testing
For a newspaper that celebrates legal weed, it sure seems odd to drug test its own employees for weed.
Published on July 18, 2022

LA Times employees are sick of a long-held, outdated policy that leaves the paper’s new hires subject to random cannabis testing, reported LA Taco

Perhaps one of the controversy's most frustrating aspects is that the publication has a history of pro-weed coverage, including a recent op-ed that called on sports officials to change the cannabis-testing policy that led to Olympics-hopeful Sha’Carri Richardson being suspended after she tested positive for using THC.

Keep in mind that only 16% of private employers are still testing employees for cannabis — a rate that is only half what it was 25 years ago. It should surprise no one that drug tests are less common in states with legalized weed (like California.) Amazon made headlines last year when the $1.5 trillion mega-corporation dropped cannabis testing.

New York state became the first in the country to ban pre-employment or random cannabis tests for most employees last October.   

“Is @latimes really in a position to lecture sports officials for the Sha’Carri Richardson suspension when @latimes still drug-tests new employees for marijuana use?” tweeted Matt Pearce, president of the LA Times Guild.   

Local news site LA Taco’s Lexis-Olivier Ray tracked the policy back as far as the 1990s but found no other news outlets with confirmed cannabis testing policies for reporters.

The LA Times's staff of 140 employees — about one-third of the newsroom — sent a letter protesting the new-hire cannabis policy last year.

“In a year where the [L.A. Times] ‘apologized’ to the Black and Latino community for its racism, it upholds an archaic drug policy that stands as a remnant of a wider system of laws that have done disproportionate harm to Black and Latino communities,” stated the letter.

Frustratingly, the LA Times has not even officially articulated a reason for holding on to a policy that became indisputably outdated six years ago, when California legalized recreational weed.

LA Times spokesperson Hillary Manning told LA Taco, “While we do not currently plan to change our policy, we remain open to reevaluating it.” She said the paper reserves the right to administer such tests for employees filling positions that involve driving or operating heavy machinery.

But LA Taco was able to turn up one potential reason behind testing for weed in 2022 California after speaking with the newspaper’s employees: Insurance issues. Apparently, some insurance companies give financial incentives to companies for maintaining a “drug-free workplace.”

It’s not just head-scratching op-eds that make the policy hypocritical. The LA Times has been publishing pro-weed content for quite some time now. Just this month, the paper covered a “$295 weed-infused dinner.” And — my goodness — as far back as 2019, it ran an article about how many employers were dropping on-the-job drug tests.

By the way, if you are facing an employment-related drug test — well number one, sorry to hear it. And number two, we got you.

Follow Caitlin on Instagram, and catch her Spanish-language podcast Crónica on Spotify and Mixcloud. 

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Caitlin Donohue
Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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