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Business, Lifestyle

Understanding Employee Drug Testing: What You Need To Know

Chane Leigh

by Chane Leigh

June 7, 2024 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 15 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho
Understanding Employee Drug Testing: What You Need To Know

Job hunting is a headache for anyone, but drug tests make the process even more cumbersome for those who consume cannabis. Despite the growing acceptance and legalization of cannabis, many major corporations still require employee drug testing for THC, the main compound in the plant. Times are changing quickly, though, and many businesses are amending their drug policies to accommodate the legal cannabis community. Let’s take a look at the cannabis drug testing policies for some of the biggest corporations in the world.

What Is Employment Drug Testing

Corporations can decide to implement employment drug testing for various reasons. Drug testing can be legally required in certain industries, and even if not mandated, employers may still choose to implement it for workplace safety.

Employment drug tests analyze samples like saliva, blood, hair, or urine to detect controlled substances or alcohol. These tests are especially common in jobs where impairment poses safety risks, such as in healthcare, childcare, construction, and manufacturing. Employees may be subject to three types of employee drug testing, including pre-employment testing, random testing, and reasonable suspicion testing.

Pre-Employment Testing

Pre-employment testing is common in fields like childcare and healthcare, as well as jobs that require the operation of heavy machinery, like construction and manufacturing, as drug use may pose serious safety risks. Employers may also implement employee drug screening to ensure fair hiring practices and minimize legal or financial risks.

Typically, pre-employment drug tests are categorized by the number of substances they screen for, with options ranging from 4-panel to 10-panel tests. As such, cannabis may or may not be included in a pre-employment drug screen, depending on the company. The employer must choose the appropriate type of test and method while ensuring compliance with relevant regulations.

Random Testing

An employer might implement random drug testing to ensure ongoing compliance with company policies and maintain a safe and productive workplace. Unlike pre-employment testing, random testing acts as a continuous deterrent against drug use, as employees are aware that they can be tested at any time. Random testing can significantly reduce the likelihood of substance abuse among employees, thereby minimizing the risk of accidents, especially in industries where impairment greatly reduces safety.

Random testing also helps to identify current employees who might be struggling with substance abuse, allowing the employer to intervene and offer support or take necessary disciplinary action. Additionally, it reinforces a culture of accountability and integrity within the organization, contributing to overall workforce well-being and productivity.

Reasonable Suspicion Testing

Employers implement reasonable suspicion testing when there are specific, observable indications that an employee may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on the job. This type of testing is crucial for maintaining workplace safety, as it allows employers to address potential impairment issues immediately, reducing the risk of accidents and ensuring a safe environment for all employees.

Reasonable suspicion testing is typically based on evidence such as erratic behavior, physical signs of substance use, or reliable reports from colleagues. By conducting these tests, employers can effectively identify and manage situations where substance abuse might affect an employee’s performance or safety. That way, the employer can both uphold the organization’s standards and policies while also providing necessary support and intervention to protect the employee’s safety and quality of life. Reasonable suspicion testing also helps protect the company from potential legal liabilities associated with workplace accidents or injuries caused by impaired employees.

What to Know About Drug Testing

Although it’s probably wise to avoid applying to workplaces that drug test and instead opt for more cannabis-friendly ones, that may not always be an option. And even if you get to skip pre-employment testing, there’s always the chance that your employer will require a test following an incident. As a cannabis user, it’s important to know how the various THC tests work in case one pops up. If you’re not a heavy consumer, you might even be able to get through your test scot-free depending on the type.

Check out these resources for everything you need to know about drug testing:

Drug Testing Methods

The most common drug test is the 5-panel test, which screens for amphetamines, cannabinoids (THC), cocaine, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP). Other substances that can be screened include alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, marijuana, methadone, methaqualone, and propoxyphene.

Common testing methods include:

  • Urine Testing is the most common method, checking for drug metabolites in urine.
  • Hair Testing is highly reliable, detecting substances up to 90 days after use.
  • Oral Fluid Testing is quick and cost-effective, though less accurate than blood or urine tests.
  • Breath Alcohol Testing uses a breathalyzer to detect current intoxication.
  • Blood Testing detects substances present at the time of the test but is invasive and costly.

Drug Testing Policies of the Biggest Corporations

As previously noted, different employers implement different drug-testing policies. Let’s look at five major corporations and their current employee drug testing policies.


Google is a popular search engine with the mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Google was officially launched in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin and rapidly expanded as the years went by. Besides being a web-based search engine, Google has launched several other offerings, including Google News in 2004, Gmail in 2004, Google Maps in 2005, and Google Chrome in 2008. Statista explains that Google has more than 70 offices in over 50 countries with over 150,000 employees total.

Drug Testing Policies

Google does not ask potential and current employees for drug testsf, but they do reserve the right to perform random drug tests if illicit substance use is suspected as a cause of or contribution to harassment, misconduct, abusive contact, or retaliation—all of which the company strictly prohibits.

MMJ Patient Accommodations

There appear to be no accommodations for medical marijuana (MMJ) patients. However, MMJ patients do not have to fear drug tests and consequences as long as they maintain their performance at work. Google values hard work and talent and does not want to interfere with its employees’ freedom as long as it does not impact the quality of work nor violate Google’s standards of behavior.

Union Representations

Google supports union representations, and its employees have formed their own. It’s called the Alphabet Workers Union and is associated with the Communication Workers of America (a union that represents workers in telecommunications and media). Kara Silverstein, Google’s director of people operations, stated, “We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce. Of course, our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”


Walmart, formally known as Wal-Mart Stores, is arguably the most popular retailer and operator of discount stores. The company was founded by Sam Walton in 1962 and was originally located in more rural areas to avoid competing with the likes of Sears and Kmart. Walmart quickly became one of the largest grocers in America and places emphasis on “saving people money so they can live better.” Walmart explains that it has around 10,500 retail units in 24 different countries and employs around 2.3 million associates, with 1.6 million of those being in the U.S alone.

Drug Testing Policies

Walmart does conduct drug tests but only under certain circumstances. The company does not require potential employees to take a drug test unless they are applying to work in a safety-sensitive role. Other than that, Walmart does require employees to sign an agreement that authorizes the company to conduct random drug testing, testing after an incident has occurred, and testing when drug use is suspected of affecting the employee’s performance and/or behavior. Walmart uses urine drug tests that are sent to a lab for testing.

MMJ Patient Accommodations

Walmart does not appear to have any accommodations for MMJ patients and has even made headlines for firing employees who used cannabis for medicinal purposes. In one case, an employee who had been working there for around eight years was fired for consuming cannabis to help manage her arthritis and shoulder pain before she went to bed. Similarly, another employee was fired for legally consuming cannabis for his pain. This means that MMJ patients should be aware that their legal consumption may still result in employment termination.

Union Representations

Walmart’s view on unionization is not the clearest. The corporation stated, “While a union may represent its members who work for other employers or competitors in the retail commerce industry well, Walmart believes that if its values and beliefs are applied there is no real or marked advantage to joining a union.” However, actions speak louder than words. The Walrus reported that employees at Quebec Walmart “made history by unionizing their store,” but “six months later, management shut it down.” In fact, Upworthy explains that there are six “creepy” things Walmart does to stay union-free, including having a hotline for managers to report union activity, having a playbook for stopping union drives, and hiring defense contractors to spy on activist workers.


Amazon is a large online retailer and cloud service provider that originally started out by selling books online. Amazon has since “morphed into an internet-based business enterprise” guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994 and now employs around 1.1 million people in America alone. According to the company’s website, “Amazon is a place where smart, passionate people obsess over customers and innovate on their behalf.”

Drug Testing Policies

Amazon used to disqualify potential candidates and terminate employment for those who tested positive for drugs, including cannabis. However, the corporation has since announced that it will not be including cannabis in its drug testing and will instead conduct impairment checks while continuing to test for all drugs and alcohol after an incident. Pre- and post-employment drug testing involves mouth swab tests. While THC is no longer being actively tested for, Amazon reserves the right to take action if cannabis use is impacting your performance and behavior.

MMJ Patient Accommodations

Much like Walmart, Amazon does not appear to have accommodations for medical marijuana patients and has also made headlines for terminating the employment of an MMJ patient. Once again, MMJ patients working at Amazon need to be careful despite the fact that cannabis may not specifically be tested for.

Union Representations

Amazon allows union representations and recently voted on whether employees should join the Amazon Labor Union, which the majority voted in support of. 2022 is the first year that most of Amazon’s American workers voted in favor of joining a union.


Uber is a well-known transportation service, whether it’s delivering you to your destination or bringing goods to your doorstep. Uber began as Ubercab and was founded by Garret Camp and Travis Kalanick in 2009. Uber explains, “It started as a simple idea: what if you could request a ride from your phone? But what began as just a thought quickly grew into a global brand focused on helping move you toward opportunity out in the world.” Many are not aware of this, but Uber also works with healthcare providers to help them schedule rides for patients, caregivers, and staff since “millions of Americans miss doctor appointments due to a lack of reliable transportation.”

Drug Testing Policies

Uber requires drug tests as part of a process to identify “which of the drivers are truly serious and dedicated to their profession.” While its drug testing policy is somewhat unclear, it appears that Uber drivers are required to submit the latest copy of their drug test results when registering on their Independent Drivers Consortium application and are subject to random selection for drug testing. Potential employees may also be subject to a drug test depending on location and position. What kind of drug tests Uber conducts remain unclear and Uber still faces many complaints of intoxicated drivers.

MMJ Patient Accommodations

Uber appears to have no accommodations for MMJ patients, nor are there any reports of employees being fired as a result of consuming cannabis. Considering the fact that there is inconsistent information available on Uber’s drug policies, MMJ patients should be wary.

Union Representations

Unlike the information available on its drug policies and MMJ patient accommodations, Uber’s union representation situation is clear. Uber has been described as the first in its industry to ensure that its drivers have full union representation. As for its other employees, Uber does recognize their union representatives.


Apple is one of the most popular manufacturers of personal computers, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, etc. The company was founded in 1976 by two college dropouts, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and operated out of Jobs’ garage. In August 2018, Apple became the first publicly traded company to be valued at $1 trillion and now has more than 154,000 employees worldwide. Apple’s corporate mission is “to bring the best personal computing products and support to students, educators, designers, scientists, engineers, businesspersons and customers in over 140 countries around the world.”

Drug Testing Policies

Apple does not conduct drug tests on its employees. Much like Google, Apple reportedly believes that “what you do on your personal time is your business as long as you don’t bring it to work and as long as it doesn’t affect your job performance.” This is not very surprising since Jobs was known to consume cannabis recreationally in order to boost his creativity and innovation.

MMJ Patient Accommodations

Apple does not appear to have MMJ patient-specific accommodations, but employees need not be concerned about jeopardizing their jobs by testing positive for cannabis. MMJ patients just need to make sure their performance and behavior are in alignment with company standards and police. One indirect benefit for MMJ patients includes the fact that Apple allows cannabis-based applications to operate in the App Store, which MMJ patients can benefit from.

Union Representations

Apple has taken somewhat of an objective stand on union representation. Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s vice president of retail and people, stated that it is equally the employees’ right to join a union as it is not to join a union. However, TechCrunch reports that Apple has been accused “of illegal union-busting tactics” before and that Applie is working with the firm that is pushing Starbucks’ anti-union move. Elections were held in June this year for unionization, and the cause won. What happens now remains to be seen.


International Business Machines (IBM) is a company that discovers, designs, and develops advanced information technology and translates that into value for its clients through consulting services. IBM conducts business in over 171 countries and was founded in 1911, making it one of the oldest corporations on this list. Inventions the company is responsible for include automated teller machines (ATMs), floppy disks, hard disks, magnetic stripe cards, etc. IBM has more than 345,000 employees across the world and is considered to be one of the biggest technology companies in the world.

Drug Testing Policies

IBM reportedly does not conduct drug tests either before or during employment. However, should IBM see or receive reports about someone consuming or dealing with substances during work hours or on work property, management will take action. They will also perform drug tests if the consumption is visibly affecting performance and behavior or violating the company’s standard of conduct.

MMJ Patient Accommodations

While there may not be accommodations specific to MMJ patients, IBM does leave enough room for MMJ patients to consume without having to worry about jeopardizing their job—as long as their quality of work is maintained and their behavior remains in check.

Union Representations

IBM does not recognize any union representations in America but recognizes several trade unions in Europe and Australia in a limited capacity. A book by Gregor Gall states, “As far as their own situation in IBM was concerned, they simply felt that the union representation could bring no material benefits. They were confident that their terms and conditions of employment could not be bettered, and they were satisfied with the individual bargaining relationships they had with their managers.” However, employees are urging for a union and engage in protests and meetings to advocate for change, reports CWA Union. They have even formed “a national-affiliated organization – Alliance@IBM – to address workplace concerns and to organize for eventual union recognition and bargaining rights…”

The Bottom Line

Although employee cannabis testing is still a part of many workplace drug policies, more and more companies are amending those policies to be more tolerant of people who consume cannabis legally. If you depend on cannabis for medical needs, make sure to always be aware of your current or potential company’s stance on the plant. Hopefully, there will come a day when all employers must accommodate medical cannabis patients.

This article was originally published in July 2022 and most recently updated in June 2024. 

Post Your Comments

Bill Pigman says:

July 26, 2022 at 12:18 pm

You. limited your survey. to Fintech and drug stores. Those who work. or repair heavy. machinery, big trucks etc. have much different rules . Also factory assembly lines. I know a guy who captains a large. oil super tanker ship. three. months. on and three . He mokes. MJ for 2/6 months . He has. to be 100% “clean” for 30 days o pass the Captain test . had. a similarly cycled job. , and, in retrospect, . it was. a good idea to spend that time off the weed.

Lo says:

July 26, 2022 at 4:27 pm

what in the word salad?


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