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It's been a pretty incredible ride for the marijuana movement over the past couple of years. After spending decades as a taboo topic that lawmakers almost always swept under the rug, cannabis has now become a mainstream issue. It's been legalized for adult consumption in Canada, has been given the green light in some medical capacity in more than 40 countries around the world, and has more support in the U.S. than at any point over the past 50 years, according to polling by Gallup.
But there are some folks who might question that lawmakers are moving too far, too fast when it comes to the marijuana industry.
This past week, Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), a leading diagnostic testing firm, and the company responsible for testing millions of Americans a year in the workplace for illicit substances, released its latest analysis, known as the Drug Testing Index, on workplace drug usage. Having tested more than 10 million urine samples in 2018, Quest found that 4.4% resulted in a positive test, which includes a combination of illicit (i.e., illegal) drugs and prescription medicines. This 4.4% workforce positivity rate is a 14-year high, and it's a 25% increase from the all-time low of 3.5% recorded between 2010 and 2012.
What's driving higher workplace drug use? According to data from Quest Diagnostics, it's not oxycodones, opiates, heroin, or cocaine. For the general population and safety-sensitive workers (e.g., truck or bus drivers, mechanics, pharmacists, nurses, and so on), usage of these illicit and/or prescribed medications has fallen or been relatively steady between 2012 and 2018.
Meanwhile, amphetamine and marijuana use has risen significantly over the same period. Just over 1% of the general population now tests positive for amphetamines, up from just under 1% in 2012. But the biggest increase is seen with the cannabis positivity rate, which has increased by 40% between 2012 and 2018 to 2.8% among the general population. It rose ever so slightly to 0.88% from 0.84% for safety-sensitive workers between 2017 and 2018. Combining the two categories, the national positivity rate in the workforce for urine tests was 2.3% last year.
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