Drugs Keep Blue Collar Workers From Finding Jobs: Time To End The Drug War

Alice Salles Comments

The opioid crisis in America is real and it has been putting thousands of people in grave danger yearly with 33,000 dying of overdoses in 2015 alone. But despite the high rates of drug abuse in certain states, others have been reaping the benefits of pot legalization. In states where cannabis is legal either for medical, recreational purposes or both, the rate of opioid abuse is actually lower.

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Now, reports claim that employers have been having a hard time finding skilled blue collar workers because a high rate of them simply cannot pass random drug tests.

According to the latest Fed’s regular Beige Book surveys, employers in the manufacturing and hospitality industries have been unable to find enough workers who pass drug screenings.

Employees and potential employees who are subjected to these screenings are often tested for marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, methamphetamines, nicotine, and alcohol. And in places like Ohio, where the opioid crisis hit locals especially harder, manufacturing companies such as Warren Fabricating & Machining have been experiencing the worst crisis in their history, with two out of every five qualified applicants failing routine drug tests.

To Edmond O’Neal, who is with the education and skills-training non-profit Northeast Indiana Works, the problem is that many employees or potential employees simply do not view pot as a drug.

“I’ve heard kids say pot isn’t a drug. It may not be, but pot will prevent you from getting a job,” he told reporters.

But because weed and many other substances are still seen as illicit drugs under federal law, these companies are compelled to be rigorous in their screening process. After all, having employees making use of illicit drugs is a liability and an insurance problem.

While performing any job under the influence of drugs has its consequences, individuals who use certain substances for medical or recreational purposes such as cannabis in their time off may find it hard to maintain a job.

In many cases, employees in fields where they are expected to go under great physical stress feel the pressure to let go of their cannabis use, a relatively safe way to obtain relief for muscle and other types of pain, just to stay employed. In no time, these same workers may end up turning to prescription drugs for relief, stepping into the never-ending cycle of legal opioid use triggered by doctors who are more than happy to prescribe highly addictive opioids but whose hands are still tied when it comes to medical marijuana.

While we don’t know exactly what percentage of employees fail drug tests over cannabis use, we can only assume that many are failing, especially in these fields, because they are directly affected by the work they do and turning to marijuana as a way to relieve stress and pain actually works. But thanks to the federal government’s continued effort to fight a failed war against drugs, both blue collar workers and their potential employers are the ones paying for these failed policies.

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