Baehman Law

New cannabis testing devices may affect employees and employers

Minnesota, like many other states, is grappling with the changing social attitudes toward marijuana use and legislation. The possession of small amounts of cannabis has been decriminalized for decades in the state, and medicinal use of the drug is authorized for a number of hard-to-manage conditions. There's also a growing consumer preference for cannabis instead of opioids for pain control.

This has been problematic for both employers and the employees who want to use marijuana (medicinal or otherwise) on their own time. On one hand, employers are eager to move with the times and reluctant to end up in litigation when an employee needs medical marijuana. On the other hand, they also need to comply with safety regulations and keep impaired employees off the job.

The issue tends to come to a head once an employee is injured on the job. A Breathalyzer test can prove that an injured employee wasn't inebriated at the time of the accident. However, conventional drug testing cannot do the same where marijuana is concerned. The psychoactive ingredient in marijuana can be detected in urine tests, for example, for up to 30 days even though the "high" from the drug may have only lasted an hour or so and been long over by the time the worker was injured. Post-accident tests with a positive reaction for marijuana have increased by 81% between 2014 and 2018.

Injured employees often have a struggle obtaining workers' compensation benefits if they fail a post-accident drug test. New tests, however, are expected to be available in 2020. The new tests function like a Breathalyzer. These tests could negate the problem that some employees face trying to balance their need to access a drug that has many benefits with their need to protect themselves financially in the event of an accident. They may no longer have to choose.

In the meantime, if your workers' compensation claim has been denied for drug use or any other reason, find out more about what you can do to appeal the denial.

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