Federal employees are still be subject to drug testing for controlled substances including marijuana, regardless of recent state-level votes to legalize cannabis and decriminalize other drugs, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is warning in a post-election memo.
“While several states have made changes to their State drug laws during this year’s election, I would like to reiterate, that there have been no changes to the drug testing panel under the federal Drug-Free Workplace Program (DFWP),” Ron Flegel, director of the Division of Workplace Programs at SAMHSA, wrote.
“The DFWP (as established under Executive Order 12564, Public Law 100-71 and the Mandatory Guidelines) will continue to test for Schedule I and Schedule II controlled substances at the established cut off levels listed in the Mandatory Guidelines,” he said in the short notice sent to federal agency drug program coordinators, medical review officers and federal partners.
The agency, which oversees federal drug testing policies and is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, has previously cautioned agencies about CBD. In a July notice, SAMHSA noted that there is a current lack of regulations on hemp-derived CBD products made legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, and there’s a risk that they could contain excess THC concentrations that could trigger positive drug tests for marijuana.
That appeared to have led to a flood of federal policy updates—from NASA, the Department of Defense, the Coast Guard and others—on the use of the non-intoxicating cannabinoid by workers. It’s unclear if the new government-wide memo about the cannabis election results will similarly trigger another round of specific directives at individual agencies.
As more states have moved to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, the federal government is pushing to expand its drug testing protocols for cannabis and other controlled substances.
In September, SAMHSA published a notice of proposed rules to expand workplace drug testing programs by allowing federal employers to collect hair samples and analyze those for illicit substances. They said “hair testing potentially offers several benefits when compared to urine, including directly observed collections, ease of transport and storage, increased specimen stability, and a longer window of drug detection.”
This latest update, which was first reported by Safety+Health, was sent less than a week after Election Day. It references successful votes to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes in several states, including some that are traditionally conservative such as Mississippi, Montana and South Dakota. Oregon voters also approved separate measures to decriminalize all drugs and legalize psilocybin therapy, while a Washington, D.C. ballot initiative to make plant- and fungi-based psychedelics among the lowest law enforcement priorities in the nation’s capital also passed.
While reform has generally been restricted to the state level, the U.S. House of Representatives last week approved a bill to federally legalize cannabis. And on Wednesday, the chamber passed legislation to promote research into the plant, in part by allowing scientists to obtain marijuana from state-legal dispensaries.
Read the memo from SAMHSA on drug testing for marijuana amid the legalization movement below:
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.