Anybody see this piece in the NY Times? Apparently businesses are struggling to find applicants for jobs who can get past the pre-employment drug test.

Did you find that surprising? I didn’t, having noticed the trend over the past couple decades.

My late mother used to worry about any service or repair worker who came to the door. “How do I know he’s not on drugs?” she’d complain. I admit I dismissed it until one visit when I happened to meet the cable guy. Seriously, folks, he should probably have been in Detox, not driving a big truck and wandering in and out of senior citizen’s homes.

What was it I picked up on? Just obvious stuff, like red eyes with big funky dilated pupils, and that smoky-sweet odor. Then a brief conversation that removed all doubts. My mom wouldn’t have recognized a stoner but she would certainly have known something was a bit off.

We shouldn’t forget that many Americans don’t like to be around people who are stoned, any more than they want to spend time with people who’ve been drinking. After all, only about 10% of US adults are regular marijuana users. One of the big local plumbing firms advertises its drug testing and background check programs as a way of reassuring customers that the people they send aren’t themselves a risk to your safety.

Is drug testing even effective in this respect? After all these years working with people who regularly pee into little bottles, I’m still not sure it’s worth the effort. Too many ways to beat the test. I’m always surprised when some pro athlete tests positive on the first day of training camp– what, he didn’t get the memo?

That even happens at rehabs! I had the opportunity to ask one candidate why he bothered to show up for a job interview at a treatment program when he knew he would flunk the drug test. He shrugged. “I needed the money, man. There’s always a chance.” What he needed was to be a patient, not an employee.

There seems to be some confusion as to whether pot impairs driving. The evidence seems pretty strong. Yet I was present at a jury selection when the prosecution went so far as to ask each prospective juror whether they “felt they were capable of” convicting someone of driving impaired if marijuana rather than alcohol were involved.

Obviously they’d run into some who felt they could not.

Impaired decision-making, slowed reaction time, decreased motor coordination– the same stuff you expect to see when the driver has been taking sedatives or perhaps a painkiller. There’s a reason those warnings appear on so many medications. Somehow voters make an exception for pot.

I’m not sure why. It might be because there are so many pot smokers out there– millions who we’d consider daily smokers, plus millions more who use at least once a week. Like most of us, they tend to underestimate their own impairment. Or it could be because we keep hearing marijuana compared only to alcohol. But alcohol is worst of all when it comes to driving. Maybe 30-50% of traffic fatalities are alcohol-related. Not something we want to emulate with other substances.

We live with the damage alcohol does because we have to, not because it’s desirable. We appear to be doing poorly on that front, too.

Americans are Drinking Themselves to Death at Record Rates

I don’t know what we’re going to do about our apparently growing shortage of candidates who can pass a pre-employment drug test. I’m sure we’ll think of something. I’m just hoping the solution doesn’t make things worse.