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Marijuana: Failed drug test rate highest in five years

After the passage of Amendment 64, which allows Colorado adults age 21 and over to use and possess small amounts of marijuana, opponents of the measure lamented about all manner of potential societal harm, including possible negative impact on employment and job productivity.

Now, such critics have new ammunition with which to make their case -- a study that shows the percentage of people failing drug tests is at its highest point in five years.

The analysis, conducted by Quest Diagnostics at the request of the Huffington Post, doesn't measure the performance of job seekers post A64. According to HuffPo, the data analyzed dates from the first six months of 2012. Using those figures, techs concluded that "the rate of positive results for pre-employment urine screening increased by 5.7 percent since 2011" and is now at levels not seen since 2007.

This is not to suggest that the numbers are overwhelming. Of the 3.4 million urine tests analyzed, 2 percent spiked as a result of pot use -- more than double the percentage for amphetamines, the second most flagged substance at 0.86 percent.

The totals may be higher in Colorado, however. A map accompanying the HuffPo item features areas in red that registered failure rates of between 2.7 and 4.7 percent -- and as you can see, there's a lot of that hue on the state:

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

No doubt these digits alarm but don't shock Jeffrey Popiel, president and CEO of a Denver-based company, Geotech. Last November, shortly after the election, he told our Sam Levin that A64's impact would be profound and destructive, especially considering that he was already bitter about the number of applicants who were also stoners.

"I'm having trouble hiring people to run our business," he said. "We used to...run ads, bring people in and interview them, go to take a drug test -- because you have to pass a drug test before we hire you -- and people would fail. So then we started listing, 'Must be able to pass drug test,' in the ad. And then...people don't apply. So now we're not even getting people to apply."

He expected that A64 would exacerbate this challenge.

"It's going to get even more and more difficult," he maintained.

Is he right? Obviously, drug-test-failure rates have been higher in the past, so the mini-spike in the failure rate may be cyclical in nature, rather than proof that progressive marijuana laws will do untold damage to America. But you can bet those upset by Amendment 64's approval will be watching to see if the numbers get worse in the future.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Amendment 64: Denver CEO says legal pot will make it hard to hire, devastate economy."


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