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.

- Advertisement -

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