Kalamazoo County will not test County employees for marijauana

Apr 24, 2019

The Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners voted against a proposal to add the word “marijuana” to its current drug testing policy. This policy would have allowed for the drug-testing of employees suspected of being high on the job.

The vetoed proposal specifically stated: “Where management has reason to believe that an employee may be under the influence of a controlled substance, marijuana, or alcohol, they may require the employee to submit to breath, urine, or blood testing to determine the presence of a controlled substance, marijuana, or alcohol.”

The proposal would have required employees to submit to such testing under threat of immediate dismissal should they refuse to be tested. The problem with the proposal: recreational marijuana use, as well as alcohol consumption, is now legal in Michigan.

Current Kalamazoo County employee-related policies don’t specifically mention marijuana in their section on testing for illicit substances; however, the policy does mention “illegal substances” which would have included marijuana when it wasn’t legalized.

Now that marijuana is legal, countless counties within Michigan, as well as other states where cannabis-use is legalized, will have to consider whether employees should be penalized for marijuana use.

Why did Kalamazoo decide not to test employees?

County Commissioner Meredith Place, who voted against the proposal, felt that the policy language was inconsistent with current state laws pertaining to marijuana.

“I don’t think we should be making statements that employees are prohibited from being under the influence of legally prescribed medication because I don’t know what 'under the influence' means and by whose barometer,” Place told MLive.

Fellow opposing voter Commissioner Mike Quinn concurred with Place’s conclusions and added that he was concerned about the current cannabis testing methods. Specifically, he was concerned that potential false-positives could condemn an employee as being high on cannabis when they’re actually as sober as a commissioner.

[As cannabis legalization spreads, marijuana testing becomes big business]

“I bring this up because I think the manufacturers of the tests have kind of convinced us their tests are very, very reliable. They’re doing the best they can, but the high number of false positives on this test just scares me,” Quinn said.

Commissioner Christine Morse, who voted in favor of the failed policy, agreed that the proposed policy may be too subjective, but that doesn’t mean that a policy regarding being high on the job shouldn’t be in place.

“You cannot not have a policy in place,” Morse said. “You then open yourself to lawsuits⸺someone crashes a car, they were drunk, they were high, and there’s evidence they have been, someone can prove that.”

So where does that leave employees who occasionally indulge?

Kalamazoo County employees can rest high on their laurels, knowing that marijuana hasn’t been specifically added to the drug testing employee policy; however, that does not mean that they should enjoy a “smoking break” while at work.

[University of Colorado study on marijuana and driving pays applicants to smoke their own stash]

The county’s current drug-free workplace policy will remain, as written. Kalamazoo County expects employees to maintain a workplace free of drugs, alcohol, and illegal-controlled substances. If an employee should exhibit suspicious behavior consistent with illegal drug use or alcohol, they may be subject to being tested.

The use of medical or recreational marijuana while at work remains prohibited, and violating that policy may result in disciplinary action against the employee, including termination. So smoke them if you’ve got some, just wait until you’re off work if you work for Kalamazoo County.

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