NYTimes | In Indiana, Mark Dobson, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County, said that when he went to national conferences, the topic was “such a common thread of conversation — whether it’s in an area like ours that’s really enjoying very low unemployment levels or even areas with more moderate employment bases.”
In Colorado, “to find a roofer or a painter that can pass a drug test is unheard-of,” said Jesse Russow, owner of Avalanche Roofing & Exteriors, in Colorado Springs. That was true even before Colorado, like a few other states, legalized recreational use of marijuana.
In a sector where employers like himself tend to rely on Latino workers, Mr. Russow tried to diversify three years ago by recruiting white workers, vetting about 80 people. But, he said, “As soon as I say ‘criminal background check,’ ‘drug test,’ they’re out the door.”
A much broader data trove, the federal government’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, reported in September that one in 10 Americans ages 12 and older reported in 2014 that they had used illicit drugs within the last month — the largest share since 2001.
Taken together, Dr. Sample said, his data and the government’s indicate higher drug use among those who work for employers without a drug-testing program than workers who are tested, though use by the latter increased as well in 2013 and 2014.
Testing dates to the Reagan administration. The 1988 Drug-Free Workplace Act required most employers with federal contracts or grants to test workers. In 1991, Congress responded to a deadly 1987 train crash in which two operators tested positive for marijuana by requiring testing for all “safety sensitive” jobs regulated by the Transportation Department. Those laws became the model for other employers. Some states give businesses a break on workers’ compensation insurance if they are certified as drug-free.