The issue: 

Businesses say it’s increasingly difficult to find employees who can pass drug tests.

What we think: 

There needs to be a concerted, citywide effort to inform workers that legal marijuana doesn’t equal a free pass at work.

Workforce is a major topic in Colorado Springs these days. Business owners, CEOs and hiring managers all say the job market is tight — and it’s hard to find skilled workers.

But those executives and supervisors also say the challenge of finding qualified workers is compounded by legal recreational marijuana in the state. It’s increasingly difficult to find workers who can pass a drug test, they say, and a negative test is mandatory for workers in advanced manufacturing, defense corporations, teaching jobs and a variety of other sectors.

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It’s a problem, says Mary Fagnant, former CEO of Qualtek Engineering. The company tests people when they are hired because the workers deal with heavy machinery. Being impaired can cause injury to workers and damage costly equipment that isn’t easily replaced.

And while unemployment across the state hovers around 2.3 percent — a record low — legal marijuana use makes it difficult to find qualified workers who don’t partake. It’s an issue raised at business meetings throughout Colorado Springs.

The problem isn’t factored in on most studies about legalizing recreational marijuana inside Colorado Springs city limits. The studies that say the city could gain up to $20 million in annual tax revenue don’t address the issue that has business owners worried: how to find employees who aren’t under the influence.

And while the issue isn’t up for debate statewide — Colorado residents can grow their own and possess marijuana without criminal consequences — there needs to be more education about the effects on careers and future employment.

Many people seem to believe they can’t be fired for partaking of marijuana, even on the job, because it’s legal to grow and possess it in the state.

Those people are wrong.

And it’s costing them jobs, careers and workplace advancement. As city leaders debate putting sales of recreational marijuana on the ballot, it’s something to consider when the time comes to vote. How much of that $20 million should go to educate workers who believe freedom from criminal prosecution equals freedom to consume during lunch breaks or outside of work?

Even if Colorado Springs leaders decide against letting voters choose whether to allow recreational marijuana stores inside city limits, a statewide initiative is needed to determine intoxication limits and to educate the workforce — before it’s too late. n CSBJ


  1. Every time my son visits from out of state, he has to take a drug test when he goes back to work because he was in Colorado. That is how bad Colorado’s reputation has become nationally. If you get pulled over out of state. It is an almost automatic full vehicle search because you have Colorado tags – and for good reason. Recently, neighbor was pulled over in Kansas with a load of drugs. Making pot legal was one of Colorado’s biggest mistakes.

    Personally, that was a job killer for anyone that worked for me. I didn’t want them getting hurt or wrecking my equipment because we couldn’t tell if they were stoned or not. Nor did I want them dealing with my customers. If it gets much worse, I am moving my business and family out of Colorado.

  2. Not just a Colorado Springs issue. It is a front range issue, if not statewide issue. Denver and Pueblo are experiencing the same problem. THC is detectable in your bloodstream for up to 30 days, even though you aren’t high. You can’t partake on the weekend and expect to pass a drug test on Monday. Or the next three Mondays!

  3. The entire country has gone nuts with background, credit, drug, certification and citizenship tests. The whole thing has gotten out of hand. Deeply flawed corporations and government employers think they have a right to perfect employees who have never made a mistake in their lives. Meanwhile, many of these employers are engaged in the exploitation of and theft of all citizens they can. This testing hysteria has given birth to an entire industry that is engaged in the testing of human urine and feces. The question becomes who and why would anyone want to work in such an industry? The fact is, it is so expensive and stressful to work and live in our society today this issue drives workers to seek relief in alcohol, marijuana and opioids. Employers help to create the conditions that drive people to drink then they want to declare a crisis for a problem they helped to create.

  4. Well said Steven. Also businesses need to get over the fact that it is legal (no different than someone who wants to have a drink after work or on the weekend) and they have no right to tell adults what to do in there personal lives outside of work (unless you partake while at work it’s none of there business). If a person can do the job and is good at the job that’s all that matters. Employers being so uptight (and I don’t partake by the way) is why I became self employed companies should be grateful that people are willing to work for them because without those people companies wouldn’t be in business!

    • well said brian, weed is no different than drink. everyone needs to get over it, people that go to work drunk or high need to be removed. everyone else that is a responsible adult should be left alone. PERIOD!

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