Excerpted from Business Insider article by Louise Esola

Employers across the United States are ordering fewer tests for marijuana in pre-hire drug screens even as the number of positive drug tests is on the rise — a trend that is raising concerns about the potential implications for workplace safety.

Screening dips in states that have approved marijuana for recreational use are particularly troubling, as they indicate that employers are forgoing drug testing due to legal risks and staffing issues.

Nationwide, 99% of drug tests in 2016 included screening for marijuana, and in 2017 that figure dropped to 98.4%, according to data compiled by Barry Sample, Seneca, South Carolina-based senior director of science and technology for the employer solutions business at Quest Diagnostics Inc.

States with legalized marijuana saw the highest drops in screening for the drug. According to Mr. Sample, 98.1% of employment drug tests in Colorado screened for marijuana in 2016, a figure that dropped to 96.2% in 2017; and 98.2% of tests in Washington state screened for marijuana in 2016, dropping to 97% of tests in 2017.

About 70% of drug tests ordered in the workplace are for pre-hire screenings, he said.

Such figures, set alongside recent data on an increase in positive drug tests in the workplace, are a safety concern, experts say, with 30 states and the District of Columbia legalizing medical marijuana and nine states approving its use recreationally.

“This is a situation we have to pay attention to,” said Jim Smith, president of the American Society of Safety Engineers and the regional leader of risk control safety services at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. in Boca Raton, Florida.

The well-publicized report released by Quest on May 8 shows the highest positive drug test percentages in 10 years.

Overall, the report showed positive urine drug testing among the combined U.S. workforce in 2016 was 4.2% — an increase over the 2014 rate of 4%. Positive tests for marijuana use continued to climb in both the federally mandated, safety-sensitive and general U.S. workforces, according to the study.

In saliva testing, marijuana positivity increased nearly 75%, to 8.9% of the general U.S. workforce in 2016 from 5.1% in 2013. Marijuana positivity also increased in both urine testing — 2.5% in 2016 vs. 2.4% in 2015 — and hair testing —7.3% in 2016 vs. 7% in 2015 — in the same population.

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