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More Employees are Testing Positive for Pot After Workplace Accidents

These increases in post-accident marijuana positivity correspond with legalization of marijuana in certain states.

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The percentage of employees in the general U.S. workforce testing positive for marijuana following an on-the-job accident increased to its highest level in 25 years in 2022, according to a new analysis released today by Quest Diagnostics.

In 2022, post-accident marijuana positivity of urine drug tests in the general U.S. workforce was 7.3%, an increase of 9% compared to 6.7% in 2021. The new peak follows a steady increase in post-accident marijuana positivity every year from 2012 to 2022. In that 10-year time frame, post-accident marijuana positivity increased 204.2%. From 2002 to 2009, post-accident marijuana workforce positivity declined.

These increases in post-accident marijuana positivity correspond with legalization of marijuana in certain states. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Since then, 19 additional states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana and 38 states (plus the District of Columbia) have legalized medical use, although either kind of use remains illegal under federal law.

In 2022, the combined U.S. workforce urine drug positivity for all drugs persisted at 4.6% – the highest level in two decades. The 2021 and 2022 positivity rates were the highest since 2001, up more than 30% from an all-time low in 2010-2012.

While marijuana was the main driver of workforce positivity increases in the general U.S. workforce, amphetamines positivity also contributed to the increase. Positivity for marijuana in the general U.S. workforce increased 10.3% (4.3% positivity in 2022 versus 3.9% positivity in 2021) and amphetamines positivity increased 15.4% (1.5% positivity in 2022 versus 1.3% positivity in 2021). While the company's amphetamines data does not differentiate between prescribed medications and illicit drug use, the increase correlates with other data suggesting that the use of amphetamines, prescribed or illicit, has grown in recent years in the U.S.

The rising overall drug positivity rate for general workforce urine testing was observed widely across U.S. industries. Over the past five years, the workforce positivity rate climbed in most industry sectors, led by Accommodation and Food Services increasing 42.9% (4.9% in 2018 versus 7.0% in 2022), Retail Trade increasing 42.6% (5.4% in 2018 versus 7.7% in 2022), and Finance and Insurance increasing 38.5% (2.6% in 2018 versus 3.6% in 2022). 

The new Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index (DTI) report is based on more than 10.6 million deidentified urine, hair and oral-fluid drug test results reported between January and December 2022, aimed at providing insight into behavior seen in workers across the combined U.S. workforce by industry and drug type. The combined U.S. workforce includes the general U.S. workforce of mostly company-policy testing by private employers as well as the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, which includes federal employees and the transportation and nuclear power industries, and can include workers such as pilots, truck drivers, train conductors and others required to drug test under federal legislation.

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