A recent Superior Court decision in the US state of Rhode Island has calling into question employers’ rights to enforce workplace drug tests for cannabis – something which has been taken for granted across the country for years.

In the summer of 2014, in the Rhode Island town of Westerly, Christine Callaghan disclosed to her prospective employers that she possessed a medical cannabis card, and legally used the drug for medical purposes. Despite her clarifying that she “would not use or possess marijuana in the workplace”, her prospective employers – the Darlington Fabrics Corporation – rescinded her paid internship position because her admitted cannabis use would prevent her from passing the mandatory pre-employment drug test.

On May 23, 2017, the state’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of Callaghan, finding that an individual cannot be denied employment on the basis of testing positive for cannabis if the employee is licensed by the state to possess and consume the drug.

This stands apart from the norm in the US, where workplace drug testing is widespread. The results of a study published in 2013 found that an estimated 48.2 per cent of Americans are “employed in a workplace that performs drug testing”. A 1999 report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that “in one year, 38 federal government agencies spent $11.7 million on drug testing”; a figure which does not begin to account for private companies that also participate in the practice. The costs of these tests are huge, yet their efficacy is uncertain.

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Thumbnail: Cannabis medical use Pixabay