June 20, 2024

Positive Marijuana Screenings Increase – What More to Expect with Rescheduling?

It’s no surprise that as marijuana legislation grows less restrictive, the use of marijuana among the general population continues to increase.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that 44% of people aged 19-30 used marijuana once in the last year, while 28% of those aged 35-50 used marijuana once in the last year – both findings noted as record highs among their age groups.

Recent news has shown that there are also increases of marijuana use in working populations.

Quest Diagnostics – an organization that manages millions of workplace drug tests for employers – released findings from their 2024 Drug Testing Index, based on approximately 5.5. million urine drug samples.

The report found that marijuana positivity in the general U.S. workforce increased 4.7% in the last year. Over five years, marijuana positivity has increased 45.2%, with 2023 reaching a new peak compared to 2019.

Among federal mandated, safety sensitive workers, marijuana positivity decreased 3.1% in 2023. However, post-accident marijuana positivity of urine drug tests in the general U.S. workforce was 7.5% in 2023. The new peak follows a steady increase in post-accident marijuana positivity every year from 2015 to 2023. In that 9-year time frame, post-accident marijuana positivity increased 114.3%.

Marijuana positivity increased in 13 out of 15 industries noted by Quest Diagnostics, with the biggest increases in positivity in white collar fields, such as Finance and Insurance, Public Administration, and Real Estate Rental and Leasing.

The data from Quest Diagnostics aligns with a February 2024 study published in JAMA that found recreational marijuana laws were associated with a 10% increase in workplace injuries among those aged 20-34.

It is clear that greater permissiveness around marijuana is leading to more frequent use, and the announcement that the DEA plans to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug has led many to assume that marijuana use will increase in a medical capacity.

With 38 states already featuring a medical marijuana program, one of the roadblocks to medical marijuana use in workers’ comp has been marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug with federal restrictions trumping state powers. However, this pending rescheduling of marijuana may allow for more individuals to use medical marijuana.

At this time, clinical experts are now discussing how workers’ comp must react.

A recent article from Business Insurance featured several industry leaders sharing their thoughts on potential considerations for the upcoming rescheduling, noting the lack of consistent dosing, efficacy data, clinical trials, and more.

Healthesystems’ VP of Clinical Services, Silvia Sacalis, BS PharmD, was quoted in the article, saying “To mitigate unintended consequences, marijuana really needs to be further studied to assess safety and efficacy and production across providers needs to ensure consistent potency is delivered in dosing.” While there will be many complex clinical considerations to figure out in the coming months and years, there is now a stronger likelihood that marijuana will make its way more into workers’ comp on some level or another.


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