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Friday October 11, 2019

By Andrew Ward


Drug testing has been a point of concern for many in the cannabis community for years. Now that public interest around cannabis is increasing, so too are the number of people who could find themselves testing positive during a work-related drug screening. Both applicants and employees can be subjected to a drug screening for a variety of reasons. The following industries are just some of the sectors where drug testing can be expected.


Airline travel and transport in the United States fall under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which falls under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Like all other DOT jobs, pilots and air traffic controllers and every other employee working for the airline are subject to drug screenings.

All DOT jobs require drug screenings. photo credit

When applying, potential hires must undergo testing for cannabis as well as cocaine, opiates, PCP, amphetamines, among others. Additional drug tests are used in case of accidents and when an employee presents reasonable cause. Even if an employee steers clear of the previously mentioned, they could still face additional screenings as 50% of employees are selected for drug tests. In addition to federal testing policies, airlines typically have their own testing and screening measures in place for new hires and employees. 

All Federal Government Jobs

Now that we’ve covered flying, let’s just put all of the federal government under this one section. The U.S. government drug tests each and every applicant and employee. Depending on the branch, its rules will be under the guidelines of specific departments. The FAA falling under the DOT is one example. However, in other cases, like with NASA, have their own policy in place. Most policies claim to strive to educate employees about harmful consumption and provide solutions for anyone in need of support. 

Hospitals and Pain Management Centers

Drug abuse is of great concern in the healthcare sector. While cannabis is likely of some concern, the primary focus is on other addictive drugs. With such access to any medicine, hospitals and other employers want to ensure their physicians, pharmacists and other employees won’t give in to any possible temptation. Urine screenings are conducted for cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, methadone, opioids and benzodiazepines. Screenings can be expected for applicants and staff members.  


Construction is one of the more laborious careers a person can have today. The job is arduous and requires a precise touch to build a variety of the public's needs from parks to backyard decks to skyscrapers. As such, cannabis and other drug use is a concern on some sites. Drug testing is not mandatory for job sites. However, a 2001 study found that job sites that screened for drugs and alcohol saw a 51% decline in incident rates within 24 months of the policy beginning.

Construction Site
Drug testing is not mandatory for construction, however it is still common. photo credit

Applicants and employees may run into drug tests using urine, saliva or hair. Tests can happen to applicants as well as current employees. Random and blanket testing policies do occur, as do random tests. Anyone involved in accidents or hoping to return to work after a previously failed test should expect one as well. 

Professional Sports

If you’ve ever heard of players like Josh Gordon, Ricky Williams, Michael Phelps or anyone of that ilk, then you know that professional athletes are drug tested quite often. Drug testing extends to amateur athletes as well, with both college and high school athletes undergoing screenings.

While marijuana was once a concern, professional athletes are not always scrutinized so harshly for cannabis. Often, players are more so being screened for steroids, other performance enhancements and stronger drugs. Each sport varies with its cannabis policies and drug testing. For example, the NHL doesn't consider cannabis a banned substance while the NBA might have the toughest policies in place. For a previous interview, we spoke with two former NFL players who explained that it was quite easy to pass tests thanks to the league giving previous notice of testing dates. 

Senior Care

Nursing homes don't always have the most glowing of reputations. Eldercare abuse throughout the years has made some to cringe at the idea of being in a nursing home. As such, many senior care facilities now implement drug testing policies for their employees.

Senior Care Center
Nursing homes now implement drug testing to ensure the safety of seniors. photo credit

The decision helps ensure seniors and families alike that they are in good hands. No word on if the acceptance of cannabis has changed anything in this sector. Applicants should expect pre-employment drug testing as well as a series of others to determine they are not a criminal threat. Random drug testing of employees has also been reported.

Some Ban the Practice

A few regions in the U.S. have decided to ban or essentially ban pre-employment drug screenings in recent years. In 2018, Maine's adult-use cannabis bill included provisions blocking companies from taking action against employees for off-site marijuana use. In doing so, the state has, in a way, banned pre-employment drug screenings, according to some.

Two laws passed late in the spring of 2019 will see pre-employment drug testing banned in 2020. In New York City, advocates discussed how alcohol is not drug tested. Therefore, neither should cannabis. Meanwhile, Nevada became the first state to ban the practice, citing marijuana as a prime driver for the bill. This slow trickle of change could signal more to come. That said, those looking for a job in these sectors or many others will want to abstain from cannabis if they want to be safe that they land that job. Best of luck!

What industry do you think drug tests the most? Which is the worst for cannabis consumers? Share your opinions in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Martin Lopez (license)


Andrew Ward Andrew Ward

Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn-based cannabis writer and creative. His work has appeared on Benzinga, High Times, PROHBTD and several other publications and brand blogs. He has covered the cannabis space for over three years, and has written professionally since 2011. His first book, "Cannabis Jobs," was released in October 2019. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn to stay up to date.

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