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Michigan considers ending marijuana testing for state employees

open jar of marijuana flowers next to a scale and tongs
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The state of Michigan could end a decades-long regulation requiring newly hired state employees to get tested for marijuana before starting their jobs.

In 1980, the Michigan Civil Service Commission created guidelines for drug and alcohol testing of certain state employees.

Later in 1998, the same commission made changes to its rules which included requiring drug testing for newly hired employees, allowing testing based on suspicion or as follow-up and allowing random and post-accident testing for certain positions.

These jobs included those that involve driving certain vehicles, law enforcement, healthcare services, working in the state Department of Corrections or handling hazardous materials.

Since then, the state has tested for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines and phencyclidine.

Now the commission is proposing a change in regulations to end testing for marijuana before the hiring of state employees. The commission is also considering ending the random drug testing for marijuana of current state workers in most departments.

The changes would not apply to certain jobs, including ones in the Michigan State Police and Department of Corrections.

Amanda Chuan, a professor at Michigan State University's School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, says when the regulations were first implemented, marijuana was classified as an illicit drug in the state.

“I think these days, especially with the legalization of marijuana in Michigan and how that's popularized recreational marijuana use in the past couple of years, I think now it's considered more like smoking cigarettes, where you don't necessarily think it's going to impair performance,” she explained.

Chuan also adds that worker shortages in recent years have led many employers to dial back on drug testing.

“Given that employers are struggling to hire, they want to expand that pool of labor market by you doing away with first educational requirements, and now it's drug testing,” she added.

She says when a job posting includes requirements to pass a drug test or to have a college degree the organization is really limiting the people who could apply and the people they would consider.

“When you do away with those requirements, you’re opening it up to people that would otherwise not believe they have a shot,” Chuan said.

According to the commission about 350 people since 2018 have had job offers with the state rescinded for having tested positive for marijuana.

In addition, those who had these offers rescinded also received a sanction forbidding them form applying for positions at the state of Michigan. While many of these sanctions have lapsed, a few hundred remain.

In 2018, voters approved a ballot proposal legalizing adult use of recreational marijuana in the state of Michigan.

“Insofar, that marijuana may directly impede performance, it seems like the state of Michigan is deciding that it's not going to be that important for most jobs,” Chuan added. “And then not using marijuana usage as a way to proxy for other things that can influence your performance on the job.”

The Michigan Civil Service Commission is accepting public comments on the proposed changes through June 23.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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