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Employers search for cheap, accurate marijuana intoxication test


Employers in Colorado and Washington say they would like to see testing improved to more easily determine an employee's current level of marijuana intoxication

“We just need a cheap reliable test that shows present impairment, and that will make everybody's job a lot easier,” said Curtis Graves, staff attorney for the Denver-based Mountain States Employers Council.

Most employers use urine screening for employee drug tests, which, unlike blood tests, doesn't determine the amount of marijuana in someone's system, Mr. Graves said.

“One technical problem is that the chemical in marijuana stays in your system longer than alcohol. So if you smoke pot over the weekend and then go to work on Monday, you may test positive even if you are no longer under the influence,” said Paul Guppy, vice president of research at the Washington Policy Center, a statewide independent public policy research organization based in Seattle.

While most employers testing for marijuana still rely on urine tests, which are less invasive and cheaper than blood tests, oral fluid testing has been gaining acceptance as an alternative to detect cannabis use, said Todd Macumber, president of Hub International Ltd.'s risk services division in Chicago. “It's a fairly rapid test and can provide a more accurate measure of intoxication.”

Oral fluid testing can detect drugs immediately after their most recent use and up to three days after use. By contrast, conventional urine drug testing cannot accurately detect usage until at least four hours after a drug has been ingested. Moreover, while drug abusers have found many ways to “beat” a urine test, it is more difficult to cheat on an oral fluid test using saliva.

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