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U.S. workers consuming more pot during pandemic

American workers are increasingly turning to weed – at least, according to new numbers released by U.S. drug-testing behemoth and clinical laboratory Quest Diagnostics Inc.

Approximately 2.7 per cent of the drug tests issued by Quest came back positive for cannabis in 2020, during which roughly nine million tests were conducted by the lab. And while the number may seem negligible, it’s up from 2.5 per cent the previous year, and just two per cent in 2016.


While worker’s weed consumption seems to be on an upswing, the trend did not increase the overall numbers of positive drug tests, which hit a plateau in 2020. In 2019, however, the number of positive tests was flagged as the greatest number the company had seen in 16 years.

The percentage of Quest-tested U.S. workers with urinalyses that came back positive for illicit drugs has remained consistently around 4.4 per cent since before the start of the pandemic.

“Driven largely by surging rates of marijuana general U.S. workforce positives and steady rates of amphetamines positives, the rate of drug positivity remained stubbornly high despite seismic shifts to the workplace caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Barry Sample, Ph.D., senior director of science and technology, Quest Diagnostics in a press release.

The National Safety Council’s senior director of impairment practice Jenny Burke stressed the importance of education and prevention of impairment in the workplace in light of the findings.

“Impairment, whether it be by drugs, alcohol, fatigue or stress, decreases the safety of the workforce,” Burke said in a statement. “The DTI results, reflecting decreases in many drug categories, occurred in a unique year. Even though these are down, we must continue to educate people about the impairing impacts of these substances.”

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