failed-drug-testI had a fascinating discussion with my son-in-law the other day.  He is transiting to a new job with a new employer and one requirement was to have a drug test.  He easily passed but he described the discussion he had with the person administering the test.  It appears that there’s a “small” problem in the state of Washington – a lot of people are failing the drug test because of marijuana use.

What’s the problem?  Marijuana is legal in the state of Washington – but not under federal law.  And many positions must meet federal requirements even when they are not federal positions but positions for state of private organizations.

The number cited by the drug tester was 70% – that’s 7 out of 10 people can’t fill a federal, state or private job because of something that’s legal.

This is not a rant about the evils of marijuana use – how it leads to a life of hard drugs and immorality – which is not true for most people.  Rather, I look upon the legalization of marijuana in Washington state as an example how we create problems from the solutions of other problems.

The legalization of marijuana solved several problems for Washington state:

  • It diminished the illegal marijuana market – why buy from an illegal dealer when you can go to a store and buy it? This causes a huge savings in police work.
  • It created a taxable industry – the taxes are supported by most people and politicians always love it when they can tax something and not have people complain.
  • It’s regulated whereas before it wasn’t.
  • It reduces the caseload for the judicial system – allowing money to be devotes to other crimes.
  • It allows marijuana users to be law abiding rather than engage in crime behavior.

There were some foreseen negatives:

  • There were likely to be more Driving While Impaired (DWI) incidents
  • More people were likely to try marijuana

But these negatives were outweighed by the positives – or so it seemed at the time.  And frankly, most people just didn’t see a problem with smoking a joint and thought it shouldn’t be criminalized.

But I’ve heard of no one that predicted that it would be harder to fill positions if marijuana was legalized.  Apparently, there are positions at the state level that have gone unfilled for a year because of no qualified candidates.

I can’t offer a solution because I don’t see one.  If federal law says marijuana is illegal but state law says it’s legal, the problem will continue.

This is a situation were only a personal decision can create a solution.  The individual must decide for themselves whether they will use marijuana or not – it’s the same as for tobacco or alcohol.  If you don’t use it, then you can be a candidate for federal, state or private positions.  If you do, don’t bother to apply.

I’ll explore the role of personal decisions in a later post.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.