WENATCHEE VALLEY – Recreational marijuana use has been legal in Washington state since 2012. But in the Wenatchee Valley and elsewhere, federal drug testing might prevent some industries from hiring the number of employees they need to operate.
Richard DeRock, general manager of Link Transit, said the regional transportation service has 80 drivers, but needs 23 more drivers.
Through interviews and feedback from interested applicants, DeRock said his human resources team believes about 30% of interested applicants are discouraged from applying because they could not pass a drug test, as they are frequent recreational marijuana users.
DeRock said a decreasing workforce and a competing demand for drivers in other industries are also reasons why Link can’t fill positions.
However, he said people passing marijuana tests is just as big of a problem because it is getting more common to use it in the state. And, obtaining a commercial driver’s license has federal requirements, like passing a drug test, regardless of which state a driver is in, according DeRock.
“We were like, ‘OK this is a bigger issue than we realized,’ ” DeRock said.
DeRock said due to the commercial driver’s license requirement, Link can’t hire anyone who tests positive for marijuana, even if that person only has inactive THC traces in their body from consuming marijuana weeks prior. THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.
DeRock said the old regulations prevent qualified and responsible drivers from working.
“The current federal testing protocol is preventing employers from having perfectly good employees,” DeRock said.
There are new drug tests that have a shorter latency of eight to 12 hours, detecting more active and recent THC traces, according to DeRock, but the federal systems still use the old methods.
“All I can do is bring awareness to this issue, and hope it changes the federal protocol,” DeRock said.