Dennis Kerns, who recently joined the Current Consulting Group as a senior consultant, has been a long-time player in the drug testing industry.
He has started and managed drug testing companies and has served as a member of the board of directors of the Substance Abuse Program Administrators Association (SAPAA) as well as the association's president.
He has successfully developed Canadian drug testing programs, policies, and procedures, and is a well-regarded expert for both employers and providers doing business in Canada and internationally.
We recently sat down with Dennis to ask him about the current changing drug culture in America and what it means for the future of drug testing.
TestCountry: How does marijuana legalization affect workplace drug testing?
Dennis Kerns: I don’t believe the legalization of marijuana will have a huge impact on workplace drug testing. Alcohol is legal and it is still not acceptable to work in a safety-sensitive job with alcohol above the company's cutoff level so I would use the same logic with marijuana. One of the main purposes of a workplace drug testing program is safety, so being above the cutoff level for marijuana is considered a safety risk and thus not acceptable. Colorado and Washington have deemed 5 ng/ml of THC as under the influence so as the laws progress the acceptable cutoff levels will become clearer.
TestCountry: How, if at all, should employers amend their drug testing policies to accommodate marijuana legalization?
Dennis Kerns: Companies should review their drug testing policies and determine their stance on marijuana in the workplace. After that the policy should be altered, if necessary, to meet the company's goals and standards. Any changes in policy should be reviewed by an expert in drug testing policies to ensure compliance with applicable state laws and to assure the best outcomes if challenged.
TestCountry: In your opinion, how likely is it that marijuana legalization may lead to other substances being decriminalized or eventually legalized in the US?
Dennis Kerns: I think it is very unlikely that marijuana legalization will lead to other substances being decriminalized. Today's society is very marijuana-friendly because of an overall lack of research on the effects and duration of effects of marijuana use; therefore, right or wrong, it is acceptable to be a recreational user with no big stigma. But the other drugs carry a more serious stigma and due to the devastating long-term effects of use they are not as acceptable by society or employers.
TestCountry: What kind of drug testing do you tend to recommend most to employers and why?
I work with the employer to determine what their goals and corporate culture require in their drug testing program. From that information, we can then determine which specific drug testing methods would best meet their drug testing objectives and business needs. Certainly, pre-employment testing is almost always included in a company policy. When testing employees, reasonable suspicion, and post-accident testing are very common and help to protect a company in the event that an employee is at work under the influence. Random drug testing is optional in most cases but can be very effective, especially in safety-sensitive work environments.