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Whether you have been using weed for years or are just now dipping your toe into the waters of legal marijuana, you should know that legalization doesn’t equate to a free pass. In Washington State, employers can have varying opinions on marijuana use, and getting drug tested can bring on a whole new meaning.

So what is a Washington resident supposed to do if they enjoy marijuana but also need to bring home a paycheck every other week? Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get a wide range of answers. In general, let’s review the basics of what you need to know when it comes to cannabis and drug testing.

First Things First

Before diving too deep into drug testing laws and employer outlooks on weed use, it’s important to know why cannabis is becoming such a big issue in the workplace. Unlike alcohol, an unarguably popular recreational substance, marijuana stays in your system long after use. If you have a beer the night before you’re about to get drug tested, it’s typically no big deal. Yet if you smoke a joint even weeks beforehand, you may find it poses a challenge.

Why such a huge discrepancy? Marijuana affects many major organs, including the brain, liver, and your heart. Because your body processes it much differently than other compounds, even a one-time smoke can stay in your system up to four days. People who use weed fairly often will have at least a 10 day waiting period before a urine test would show up drug free, and heavy users could have 30 days or more to wait before being able to pass a drug test.

In many cases, individuals who are on the job hunt don’t think about this element of their weed use, and poor planning can lead to the inability to pass a drug screening. When the prospect of waiting at least one month before obtaining employment is on the line, people often get frustrated and blame employers for not being more lenient. However there’s a good reason for standards to be as strict as they are, as we’re about to learn.

What’s The Law? 

Washington residents as a whole are still getting used to the idea that marijuana is now legal to use for both medicinal and recreational purposes. With such a big change in legalization, it’s only natural that it will take some time for certain guidelines to become formally established. At this point in time, the law is a little gray when it comes to weed use.

Despite the fact that it’s legal, you can never use weed on the job, similarly to alcohol or any other substance that would be questionable in the workplace. But what happens if you want to smoke over the weekend and show up to work Monday morning? That’s where things get a bit hazy.

At this point in time, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to testing positive for marijuana while on the job. If you are obviously high, your boss does have the right to exercise suspension or even termination from your job. When you haven’t smoked in days but test positive for weed, it’s up to the employer as far as how to handle the situation.

Some take the approach that what you do on your own time is fine, and as long as the only thing showing up on your test is legal weed, you’re good to go. Other hard drugs will probably lead to different types of conversations, but you get the idea.

Others have a strict no-tolerance policy and will instantly fire you if your drug screening shows positive results. Why are they so harsh? Ultimately, marijuana is still illegal on a federal basis, and certain employers in Washington want to maintain their reputation as individuals who follow every law to the letter. Furthermore, any type of on-the-job accident that can be attributed to weed use creates panic in the eyes of many employers.

Still some jobs will be somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, and may ask that you talk to their HR department before returning to work, or might ask you to take some vacation time until your test can come back negative. How your employer chooses to handle the situation is as unique as each company themselves.

When You’re On The Hunt

 We’ve talked about what might happen if you test positive for weed when already employed, but what happens if you’re job hunting and you are asked to take a drug test? More and more staffing agencies in Washington are starting to enforce mandatory urine testing along with the submission of your application, and sadly this strict policy is causing more and more people to go without work.

Some estimates show that over 30% of people who apply to work with a temp agency are failing their drug test, a number that is significantly higher than it was in past years. Perhaps taking such a hard stance on marijuana is creating more problems in the job market than many anticipated.

Possible Solutions

 Once you’ve taken a hit, whether it’s your first ever or you’ve now lost count, you need to start thinking about how it will affect your current or future employment. Many individuals often try to get around drug testing and utilize over the counter products that claim to rid your system of all traces of marijuana. Stories have been told for years about people smuggling fake urine into the test with them, although the success of this method isn’t very high.

Your best bet just might be to have a candid discussion with your employer and ask what their stance is on marijuana. You may end up surprised to find that they don’t care what you do on your own time, while others will make it very clear how they feel about any kind of weed use. Once you have that information, you can then determine what makes the most sense for you should you ever get randomly drug tested.

Still unsure about what to do? You can always visit the team at The Bakeréé, as our budtenders are well-versed in all things marijuana. If losing your job isn’t worth it, visit us to pick our brains about how you can still enjoy weed without the worry.