Legalising cannabis and what it may mean for drug testing

If cannabis was legalised in Australia, what would it mean for drug testing in the workplace and on the roads? Credit David Gabrić

While cannabis is largely illegal in Australia, the debate on whether the laws should stay the same is continuing. So, we thought it was time to have a closer look at the debate and also see what legalising the drug could mean to our rules on the roads and in workplaces.

Cannabis debate heating up

With the Federal election just around the corner, a wide range of topics are being debated, including the legalising of cannabis. It’s not a new debate and has been raging for years, but The Greens have certainly heated up the argument with a plan to regulate, tax and legalise the drug.

The Greens say that millions of Australians use cannabis every year and by legalising it we’d be following in the footsteps of other countries, including Canada and the United States. They add that making the drug illegal does not work and prevents people from seeking help when they need it.

Their plan is to:

  • Legalise cannabis and create a regulated market. They believe this will ensure quality control.
  • Establish an Australian Cannabis Agency to issue licences for production and sale of cannabis. The agency would act as a single wholesaler.
  • Ban advertising of cannabis product.
  • Establish cannabis retail shops.
  • Allow people to grow up to six plants at home for personal use.
  • Impose penalties for the unlicensed sale of cannabis.

The Greens are not alone. Another political party, Reason Australia, agrees and says we need to treat drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal offence. They go a step further by supporting the decriminalisation of the use and possession of all drugs, not just cannabis. They want to see a regulated legal market for adult use of cannabis.

What does it mean for drug testing?

While the debate continues, if cannabis was legalised, what would it mean for drug testing in the workplace and on the roads?

From the perspective of the road rules and workplace health and safety rules, the simple answer is nothing. Whether cannabis is legal or not, you won’t be allowed to drive a car or go to work with cannabis in your system. It’s no different in this regard to alcohol, which is also a drug and is legal.

However, there’s another aspect to this question and that’s whether legalising cannabis could result in more people taking risks and driving or going to work under the influence of cannabis.

While we don’t really know the answer to this, we can look at findings from other countries where cannabis has been legalised. For example, in the United States, where nearly 20 states have legalised the drug, there has been evidence of an increase in workers testing positive for cannabis.

According to an article on the Vision Times website, a leading workplace drug testing firm noted a .3 per cent increase in people testing positive for marijuana in 2021. This was from six million urine sample tests. While the increase is relative small, the result is particularly notable because it’s the highest positivity rate ever reported and a 50 per cent increase on the figures from 2017. This is backed up by other studies that show that the legalisation of cannabis can lead to higher use in some demographics.

If more people use cannabis, then it’s not a stretch to suggest that there will be more people driving or going to work with the drug in their system. Some will do so because they simply don’t understand the risks that the drug presents from a safety perspective or don’t understand how long it can stay in their system.

Therefore, one thing we’d like to see more of, particularly if cannabis is legalised in Australia, is increased education about the risks. It simply makes sense and will potentially save lives.


If cannabis was legalised in Australia, what would it mean for drug testing in the workplace and on the roads? Credit David Gabrić

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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