Drug testing companies have a lot to lose if marijuana is legalized

Emily Gray Brosious

Drug testing companies are fighting marijuana legalization(Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Drug testing companies are working to block marijuana legalization in the U.S.

Certain industries have gotten a fair amount of attention over their efforts to block marijuana legalization in the United States. But one sector that’s fighting to block legalization that hasn’t gotten quite the same coverage so far is the drug testing industry.

ATTN: just reported on the multibillion dollar industry’s lobbying efforts directed at hampering marijuana legalization and how the industry has grown into a behemoth largely on the back of marijuana prohibition.

Drug testing became a widespread practice in the U.S. in the 1980s, thanks to an executive order from President Ronald Reagan that required federal agencies begin drug testing programs for their employees. Reagan also went on to sign the Drug Free Workplace Act, which expanded mandatory drug testing programs to include individuals employed under federal grants and certain contractors.

According to ATTN:, these policies helped create a $4 billion dollar drug testing industry that is predicted to grow to over $6 billion by 2019.

Beyond the questionable science, constitutionalitysocioeconomic implications and exorbitant costs of drug testing (about $42 dollars each), these tests also discriminate heavily against marijuana users. This is due, in part, to the fact that marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the country, as well as the lengthy period of time marijuana stays in a person’s system.

For comparison, pot remains detectable in urine screens nearly 10 times longer than cocaine and heroin, as reported by Business Insider. That does not correlate to the length of time someone may remain impaired after using marijuana, which is just a few hours.

More from ATTN:

“If you take marijuana out of the equation of the standard drugs that are screened for, you’re going to have a very, very small percentage of employees ever flunking drug tests,” Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told ATTN:.

“In fact, that percentage might be so small that employers rethink their cost-benefit analysis on whether the cost of doing all of these tests are worth the reward of finding a very small minority of employees who may be testing positive.”

When viewed through the lens of economic incentive, it’s easy to see why organizations like the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace are fighting so hard to keep marijuana illegal.

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See also: 13 states that require drug test for welfare recipients

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Gallery information via National Conference of State Legislatures

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