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The legalization of marijuana across many states and countries has left safety-sensitive businesses wondering how to manage marijuana use without dismissing current workers or disqualifying hundreds of applicants from employment.

marijuana legalization map

Since pre-employment and random drug tests can reveal THC for days and weeks after use, many workplaces are concerned about losing employees who consume marijuana during their time off, in a manner that doesn't impact their safety and alertness at work. 

With current labor shortages and Amazon's recent decision to remove THC from pre-employment drug screens,  businesses in manufacturing, construction, oil and gas, and warehousing are finding it difficult to reconcile their commitment to safety and zero-tolerance drug policies with their need for productive and efficient business operations. 

drug testing quote

Thankfully, technology has made great strides since cannabis first started becoming legalized.

The AlertMeter® is a 60-second cognitive impairment test that was validated by NIOSH-funded research. Today, it is the only robust cognitive impairment test available to workplaces and has garnered widespread attention for its ability to help manage legalized marijuana while also tackling issues such as fatigue, mental distress, alcohol, and more. 

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With cognitive impairment testing, businesses no longer need to choose between safety and productivity or between relaxing their drug-testing policies and aggravating labor shortages. They can maintain higher standards of both safety and productivity by implementing AlertMeter®'s 60-second cognitive impairment test

Here are 5 ways cognitive impairment testing with AlertMeter® helps businesses overcome the dilemma of marijuana legalization: 


1. Cognitive impairment tests reveal impairment in real-time. 

AlertMeter Kiosk

The availability of a real-time metric for worker impairment means that workplaces can rely on more than "history of use" when making a hiring decision.

Of course, pre-employment drug testing is an essential process in filtering out habitual drug-users from safety-critical jobs. However, it can become problematic when sober and qualified workers are blocked out of the workplace due to legal consumption of cannabis during vacation or weekends. 

With cognitive impairment testing, employers have an additional layer of confidence that impaired workers will be filtered out of the workplace on a daily basis and not only during the pre-employment drug test.

Further, workers won't be judged based on their personal decisions during their off-time. Only their current state of alertness as they step onto the worksite will be assessed. 

Thus, the real-time insights provided by cognitive impairment testing not only boost safety on a daily basis, they also boost productivity. Impairment testing assures workers that their employers are not concerned with their personal lives, but rather with their ability to be alert while at work. This shift in focus leads to reduced turnover and a more positive workplace safety culture which is essential for more efficient and productive business operations. 

Click here to read a Q&A with a steel company that uses AlertMeter®.


2. Cognitive impairment tests help identify reasonable cause in an objective and non-discriminatory way. 

Workers taking AlertMeter at start of shift_logo blur (1)Reasonable cause drug-testing is one of the most important processes that allow employers to proactively remove potentially impaired workers from the worksite.

However, the effectiveness of this procedure relies entirely on the supervisor-on-duty.

If that supervisor has too many workers to oversee; if he's unable to observe each employee's behavior on a daily basis; if he isn't adequately trained to recognize subtle signs of severe impairment; or if he lacks the confidence or desire to approach a worker and tell him to go urinate in a cup, the effectiveness of reasonable cause testing is nullified. 

If your city has reeked of marijuana ever since its legalization, this would also make it more difficult for a supervisor to identify the exact source of the potential impairment. Cognitive impairment testing takes the guesswork out of drug testing. Instead of sending supervisors sniffing around the worksite like sniffer dogs, impairment testing sends supervisors safety alerts when a specific worker needs their attention. Reasonable cause testing is used as a follow-up screening method when deemed necessary. The whole process is irrefutably objective, fair, non-invasive, and professional. 

Supervisors are given the tools to become stronger leaders, while workers are given the respect, privacy, and empathy they deserve. These improvements in communication save supervisors' valuable time and develop stronger team relationships based on a shared concern for safety. The use of drug testing is optimized, workers feel respected and heard, and supervisors get to focus on proactive rather than punitive safety measures. These outcomes lead to reduced turnover, increased productivity, and increased safety. 

Click here to listen to our newest webinar, "How Do I Adjust My Drug-Testing Program in Light of Legalized Marijuana?"


3. Cognitive Impairment testing allows workplaces to reduce turnover by focusing on all sources of impairment.

Avoid Employee Fatigue Webinar-thumbAs companies who utilize impairment testing have already witnessed, implementing an objective method to identify potential impairment allows supervisors to recognize the prevalence of impairment that is unrelated to substance use.  

For example, a worker who smoked marijuana during his vacation a week ago, then showed up to work completely sober yet fatigued due to problematic shift schedules, could be fired for a positive drug test.

Meanwhile, other employees will continue working, dangerously impaired due to unresolved fatiguing work conditions.

However, having a quick conversation with a potentially impaired worker before ordering a drug test would allow the supervisor to identify the real and current culprit, enact a fatigue countermeasure, retain the skilled and sober employee, and use the insight to improve their overall working conditions. 

Safety is improved because there is greater visibility into all sources of impairment--every source of impairment is no longer lumped under a positive drug test and discarded from the conversation. Skilled, sober, and fatigued workers are not fired for what they legally consumed on vacation. Instead, their fatigue is recognized and mitigated by strong and empathetic leadership. Productivity is increased due to improved alertness at the worksite as well as reduced turnover and reduced lost time. 

Click here for answers to all your questions about "Legalized Marijuana and Workplace Drug Testing"!


4. Cognitive impairment testing proactively, consistently, and powerfully deters drug use. 

Crew in cab using AlertMeterQuest Diagnostics' 2021 report on drug-test positivity rates revealed a greater increase in post-accident drug-test positivity than pre-employment drug-test positivity. 


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Coupled with the reasonable assumption that random drug testing is used sparingly by workplaces wishing to retain employees in a marijuana-legalized state, it has become a lot more difficult to deter drug use between the point of hire and culmination in an accident. 

In order to deter workers from drug-use after they've been hired, impairment checks need to be:

  • frequent
  • unpredictable
  • fair/objective

If impairment checks are too infrequent, workers will consume drugs because they don't expect to get caught.

If impairment checks are too predictable, workers will plan to abstain for a couple weeks, then resume use directly after receiving a negative result.

If the impairment check is perceived to be unfair, workers will have reduced morale and a reduced desire to retain their job. This is especially true when the skillset of these workers are in high demand. 

Cognitive impairment testing is a daily safety procedure. It can be taken as many times as needed, and is a fair and objective measure of impairment. Since it is typically taken every day upon beginning of shift, workers know that they must be sober and alert every single day. Since it only takes 60 seconds, supervisors can choose to also implement it after lunch breaks when workers may be experiencing circadian lows or cannabis highs. 

Since cognitive impairment testing is an objective measure of each individual's state of alertness, workers will not feel singled out or discriminated. The test is attuned to each worker's level of speed, technical skill, education level, language, intelligence, and more. This means that workers are only compared to their own baseline of performance, never to other workers. 

All these unique qualities of impairment tests mean they are able to deter drug use more effectively. This means fewer workers test positive for drugs, and fewer workers are denied or dismissed from employment. A higher level of safety is achieved while quality workers are retained. 

Click here for AlertMeter® feedback from companies like yours. 


5. Cognitive impairment tests are an easily implemented safety procedure.

taking AlertMeter testMost importantly, cognitive impairment testing is a safety procedure that, due to its foundation in modern technology, can be implemented in any workplace with ease. 

Many safety procedures, whether technology based or not, require the following: 

  • A time investment
  • Hardware/equipment investment
  • Training investment
  • Financial investment.

Since cognitive impairment testing was created to work alongside existing company procedures to maximize safety and productivity from within, its implementation process reflects this role: 

  • At 60 seconds per worker per day, cognitive impairment testing does not require a significant time investment.
  • As an app-based test, it can be taken on existing company tablets, computers, or workers' personal mobile phones. 
  • With graphics-based screens on an easy-to-use app, cognitive impairment testing requires minimal orientation/training. It can be taken by anyone regardless of education, language, technical skill, etc. and requires only a few trial runs before workers become comfortable using it. 
  • Priced per worker per year, cognitive impairment testing can be thought of as a cheap insurance plan against a wide variety of human impairment in the workplace. To get a specific quote and ROI for your company, click here.


As society, culture, and regulations adjust to permit cannabis a greater role in workers' lives, repercussions on business and safety are felt most profoundly by safety-sensitive industries experiencing labor shortages and hiring difficulties. 

Without the necessary technology in place, workplaces have found it challenging to maintain productive and efficient operations while enforcing a high standard of safety regarding substance use. 

Cognitive impairment tests fill the gap between traditional drug testing and more modern challenges to workplace safety and productivity. This article outlined five unique qualities of cognitive impairment testing that make it uniquely well-suited for this role: 

  • real-time insights
  • comprehensive focus on all sources of impairment
  • objective and consistent application
  • strong deterrence to drug use
  • easy implementation

Cognitive impairment tests were created to resolve modern workplace challenges, years before they surfaced. By adding cognitive impairment testing to your current workplace safety program, you can improve both safety and productivity, and reduce costs in the process. With cognitive impairment testing, legalized marijuana and labor shortages are a lot more manageable.


As the only cognitive impairment test viable in the modern workplace, AlertMeter® can help. Schedule a time to get a quote and find out more: 

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