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Marijuana might be legal in Washington state, but its use can nonetheless create complicated situations for people in search of a job.

Companies subject to federal law — such as those employing truck drivers, refinery workers or pilots — naturally prohibit the use of marijuana, which is illegal under federal law.

Other companies not subject to federal Department of Transportation rules are free to enact their own policies about whether to allow the use of marijuana. Many organizations in safety-sensitive fields are likely to disallow its use among workers, even if it’s legal under state law.

* Learn more about how clashes between state and federal law affect local users.

Organizations whose workers might do such things as operate forklifts, manage dangerous machines, provide manufacturing support or drive vehicles often are deciding to include screens for marijuana (and other drugs) as part of their hiring practices. Generally, if there is an element of safety involved, companies are understandably wary about the possibility of employees being impaired.

The full effects of marijuana laws in Washington are still being explored, so naturally this situation is fluid. Marijuana use is not uncommon among young adults — the prime age range for many of the people applying for these positions — and companies are finding it tough to determine what’s best for their businesses.

Some of them are holding the line and sticking to federal law disallowing marijuana, while others are allowing marijuana but disallowing other drugs. Some are even abandoning drug testing altogether, rather than fight this battle.

Add to that the fact that misinformation about marijuana is rife, and you have the ingredients for quite a mess.

At Bostec, we’ve seen a marked increase lately in prospective employees who’ve been using marijuana legally but are trying to find ways to beat drug tests when applying for jobs. We’ve also seen an increase in companies who are testing for marijuana as a way of protecting themselves and their existing employees.

At safety-sensitive companies, the legality of marijuana has narrowed the field of possible employees. Help-wanted signs are all over, and jobs are going unfilled for longer than they used to.

All of this will shake out eventually, as better information is published on the effects of marijuana and on how long it stays in a person’s system depending on how it’s used. In the meantime, we always encourage anyone with questions — whether businesses that are hiring or workers who are looking to get hired — to give Bostec a call. We’d love to chat and help determine your next best steps.

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