The federal government wants to clarify how it assesses impairment among its employees, according to two new filings set to be published on Thursday in the Federal Register.
Specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services wants to update its “Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs” for oral fluid and for urine, last published in the Federal Register on October 25, 2019 and January 23, 2017, respectively. Public comment will be open for 60 days.
Even though 18 states and D.C. have legalized cannabis for adult use, and the majority of states allow it for medical use, none of this applies to federal employees because cannabis remains federally prohibited. Therefore, federal employees are held to these impairment guidelines.
When it comes to the guidelines on oral fluid testing, the revision is focused on the Department’s current policy “that ingestion of food products containing marijuana is not an acceptable medical explanation for a positive drug test result,” the new document reads. The Department wants to change the wording to make it clear that this “applies to any positive oral fluid drug test results, not just marijuana, with the exception of positive codeine and morphine results less than 150 ng/mL.” Now, the phrase “products containing marijuana” is used only “as an example.”
The changes for urine testing are largely similar, but the language in focus is both “passive exposure to marijuana smoke and ingestion of food products” (italics added). The rewording would make it clear that “passive exposure to any drug is not an acceptable medical explanation for a positive drug test,” and “exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke” would remain as an example. And, it would clarify that “ingestion of food products containing a drug is not an acceptable medical explanation for a positive drug test,” and “products containing marijuana” would remain as an example, alongside “poppy seeds containing codeine and/or morphine.”
Further, for both oral fluid and urine testing, the Department wants to add language “stating that a physician’s authorization or medical recommendation for a Schedule I substance is not an acceptable medical explanation for a positive drug test.”