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Failed drug tests preventing growing number of job applicants from being hired

Employment experts say opioid epidemic, legalized marijuana adding to problem

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the country's unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in June. But even though hundreds of thousands of jobs are currently available, there is a growing section of the unemployed who won't get hired because they can't pass a pre-employment drug tests. 

Employment experts told News4Jax on Tuesday that it's a problem that's getting even bigger because of the opioid epidemic and legalized marijuana in some area. 

The jobs are out there, but many employers are not willing to hire someone who might become a liability. 

According to multiple national studies, a growing number of job applicants can’t get hired because they can’t pass pre-employment drug test.

“They just say pass or failed," said Candace Moody, vice president of communications for CareerSource in Jacksonville.

Moody said drug testing is all about money -- employers don’t want to be liable for an accident caused by an employee abusing drugs.

“If someone were to have an industrial accident and someone gets hurt, the lawsuit is going to be much more serious if they were under the influence or had been under the influence," she said. 

Pre-employment drug tests also saves money in other areas.

“Employers actually get discounts on their workers comp rates when they are a drug-free work place and that is a significant cost saving for them," Moody said. 

Legalized medical marijuana is adding to the problem. Jacksonville’s first dispensary opened up on the Southside just three weeks ago.

IKEA is hiring people to work in its Jacksonville store, which is currently under construction. A company spokesperson said they will not consider any applicant who uses medical marijuana because the company follows federal laws, which says marijuana is still illegal.

“There’s a lot of medications that are legal to use and have very proper medical uses, but are not a good idea to be using on the job," Moody said. 

Amazon is also hiring thousands of people in Jacksonville. Shevaun Brown, Amazon Regional Operations public relations manager, did not say if the company would consider an applicant who uses medical marijuana, but released the following statement:

"Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We are proud to have been able to create the several thousand new, permanent roles in our fulfilment centers in recent years. One of the reasons we’ve been able to get so many people to join us is that we offer great jobs and create a positive, safe work environment along with opportunities for growth. We assess candidates in a range of ways during the recruitment process to help us hire and develop the best candidates."

And then there’s a marijuana misconception that catches some applicants off guard.

“Traces of marijuana can be in your system for weeks after you take it, so even if it’s legal and you’ve used it recreationally, but haven’t used it for several weeks, the remnants may still be in your system and still might be traceable," Moody said. 

Although pre-employment drug tests normally check for illegal drugs, experts advised that applicants should be up front with hiring managers by telling them there may be a legitimate medical substance that might show up during a drug test.

Even if a person passes a pre-employment drug test and gets the job, that person is still not necessarily in the clear because some companies have policies, which include random drug testing, that they make known. And some companies require drug testing immediately after an employee wrecks a company vehicle. 


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