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Yes, There’s a Cannabis Breathalyzer. Here’s What You Need to Know

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Whether you’re in charge of your company’s safety program, risk mitigation, drug testing, or HR department. Whether you’ve got drivers on the roads, employees operating heavy equipment, workers loading and carrying packages, caregivers watching over children. Whatever your situation, you probably have questions about cannabis.

We get it. The world was once a simple place where workplace drug testing programs were a powerful force for deterring and detecting a potential workplace hazard.

Then legalization of medical marijuana in 38 states and Washington, D.C. muddied the waters, and recreational marijuana legalization in 23 states and D.C. (and counting!) caused more confusion.

Valid Concerns. Limited Solutions.

Employers’ concerns are valid. A National Institute on Drug Abuse study found that employees who tested positive for marijuana had 55% more industrial accidents and 85% more injuries. No one wants on-the-job impairment to hurt anyone.

A big problem is that the tools available to employers haven’t kept up with changing times. THC metabolites are detectable in hair and blood for weeks, sometimes months, after use. Lab testing that relies on these specimens can identify employees whose lifestyle has included cannabis use. But it cannot tell us much about when it was used. Did an employee use medical marijuana for pain relief over a weekend break, or did they use in the parking lot right before work?

Oral swabs are better, honing in on about 24 hours after use and some tests narrow the window further. But as Jimmy Buffet once sang, “It’s a fine line between Saturday night and Sunday morning”—at least for an employee working on Sunday. When it comes to cannabis, what happened last night may not be relevant to their work performance and safety today. 

Another Tool for the Cannabis Testing Toolkit?

Employers have been looking for solutions to help identify workers who are actively impaired and could pose a danger to themselves or others. And we do have some bad news here—there is no universal standard for impairment so there is no perfect tool for detecting it.

Technology recently introduced by Hound Labs does, however, provide some advantages. A breathalyzer is used to detect active THC in the system, not inactive metabolites left in the system for long periods thereafter. The detection window for smoked products is about three hours after use, while for edibles it’s a few hours longer. And here’s the upside—the three-hour period coincides with peak impairment, as indicated by research, so the testing option may provide the answer some employers have been seeking. 

There are a wide range of issues to consider with this new tool. How can it be used to continue to deter and detect workplace drug use? How can it help employers balance fairness and safety? What about reasonable suspicion and post-accident applications? Or pre-employment testing?

We wanted to know more, too, so we invited representatives from Hound Labs to lead a recent Asurint webinar. It drew one of the highest attendance levels and best post-event feedback we’ve ever received. And let’s just say the Q&A session was robust, probably covering most of the issues you would ask yourself.

Of course, we recorded the event to serve as a resource for attendees, their teams, and others who need to know more about their marijuana drug testing options. If that describes you, stream the webinar, The Advantages of Breath Testing for Recent Cannabis Use today. 
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It provides an overview of marijuana breathalyzer technology and where it fits into the larger testing landscape—helpful information for you to discuss with your own legal counsel to find the right way forward in the jurisdictions in which you operate and recruit! 

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