The year 2022 marked the year that drug tests administered after workplace accidents showing positive results for marijuana reached the highest level in 25 years, according to a recent Quest Diagnostics analysis.
The Quest Diagnostics analysis, unveiled Thursday, showed that positive marijuana urine tests after workplace accidents among the general U.S. workforce hit 7.3% last year. In 2021, it was slightly lower at 6.7%.
For its entire analysis, Quest Diagnostics looked at more than 10.6 million drug test results. Those results, which had a timeframe of January to December 2022, came from urine, hair and oral-fluid drug tests.
The higher percentage had a correspondence with the move by some states to make usage of marijuana legal, the workplace drug testing provider suggested.
A total of 22 states have made recreational marijuana use legal, with Colorado and Washington state having led the way starting 11 years ago. Included in the states that have done so are California, Arizona and Massachusetts, among others. D.C. has legalized it as well.
Quest Diagnostics found that the percentage of people in the general U.S. workforce that tested positive for marijuana came in at 4.3% in 2022. That marked an increase from the prior year, when it reported 3.9%.
The analysis also looked at how positive worker marijuana tests differed in states based on the legality status of the substance.
"In the general U.S. workforce, states that have legalized recreational and medical marijuana use exhibit higher positivity rates that the national average," Quest Diagnostics Senior Director of Science for Employer Solutions Dr. Suhash Harwani said in the press release. "States that have not legalized marijuana appear to have positivity rates below the national averages."
Where people are legally allowed to use it recreationally, the percentage was 5.7%, Quest Diagnostics said. About 3.9% of the general U.S. workforce tested positive for marijuana in states permitting medical usage. In states barring both, the rate was 3.1%.
All three categories saw increases year over year, according to the analysis.
Quest Diagnostics credited higher shares testing positive for marijuana and amphetamines with boosting the overall drug positivity rate for general U.S. workers in urine tests. For amphetamines, it went from 1.3% in 2021 to 1.5% in 2022.
The rate for drugs overall, at 5.7%, was up slightly from 2021, according to the analysis.
"Year-over-year and five-year data point to continuously higher workforce drug positivity overall, by industry, and across multiple drug categories," Harwani also said. "As employers express concerns for employee health, wellness and safety, they may want to consider these data as a warning sign, particularly as a growing body of science demonstrates the risks of marijuana to mental and physical health."
Among more than 9 million urine drug tests of the general workforce and "federally mandated, safety-sensitive" workforce, 4.6% had positive results, Quest Diagnostics found. That percentage was the same year over year, it noted.
The practice of employers subjecting their staffers to drug testing has become more and more debated over the years.
Among all Americans, roughly 18% reported in 2019 at least one instance of them using marijuana, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The percentage of Americans that said "yes" when asked about whether marijuana should become legal has been flat for three years, with 68% expressing that position in 2022, 2021 and 2020, according to a Gallup poll from November.