I have recently finished my latest year of college and am planning on taking an entry level (minimum wage) job for the summer to build up some cash. At the end of finals I was offered a joint in celebration and elected to smoke some of it. My college is in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal but not permitted at the workplace. Smoking marijuana isn't something I have done before or plan to do again. I had not been expecting to need to take a drug test, and in fact had not considered it at all.

I've since learned that the job I have applied for has in the past chosen to drug test some, but not all, of its applicants. After some research on the internet I believe that I have decent odds of failing this test.

At this point I'm left with two options (that I can see). When asked to take the drug test I either:

  1. tell them up front
  2. admit if confronted after

As an employer which would you prefer? If an employee were to admit to having used a drug once but swore that they hadn't used before and wouldn't use again, and volunteered to take as many drug tests as required in the future, would you hire them? Why or why not? If you have another take or opinion on what could or should be done I welcome that as well.

Note: I'm not looking for condemnations of my decision to smoke - I understand that actions have consequences and I'm fully prepared to face the consequences of mine. I'm also not looking to find a way to cheat or get out of the drug test - if that is what I wanted to do the internet has already provided many options. I just want to know what you, as an employer, would do in reaction to the two scenarios.

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    *comments removed* Remember what comments are for. Useful information that is clarified in the comments should be edited in to the post.
    – jmac
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 23:39

4 Answers 4


Most of the time, if the company is drug testing applicants, the hiring manager has no discretion-- if you fail the test, your application is rejected. It wouldn't matter if it was a truly one-time event, it wouldn't matter if you offered to take drug tests every day for the rest of your life. The majority of the time, the drug test is required either by the government or by the company's insurance carrier so the company itself has exceptionally little room to alter the testing protocol.

Given that, it makes little sense to admit anything up front. Even if the hiring manager believed every word you said, they'd still be bound by company rules and a positive test would cause your application to be rejected. The only possible effect would be to potentially cause the company to ensure that you're in the drug-testing group if there are multiple groups or to give the hiring manager reason to reconsider you.

The fact that you happen to live in or visited a state that has "legalized" the drug is irrelevant.

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    Do you have a source for the last paragraph? Commented May 21, 2014 at 15:13
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    Comments removed: If you want to have an extended discussion about the legal issues here please take it to The Workplace Chat. Thank you. Commented May 21, 2014 at 20:47
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    @Raystafarian I know this is an old question, but to clarify: medical marihuana laws typically protect lawful users from prosecution but do not protect against discrimination. See my answer here on this related topic.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 10:10

This does not directly answer the question per-se, but I wanted to provide potentially useful.

It's important to find out the following information for calculated risk: - How long the time is from when you last smoked to when you're tested. - How much you smoked. - How often you smoked. - Your BMI. - What kind of test they're doing (mouth swag, blood, urine, hair).

We can already deduce that you smoke only once, and (assuming you smoked a partial joint) likely around a gram. This means that the THC won't take long at all to metabolize in your system.

As long as it's been 24-48 hours, then you don't need to worry about a mouth swab test. For the truly paranoid, use some mouthwash and you'll be fine.

Urine tests are the most common, and typically it will stay in your system for maybe a week. With so little in your system to metabolize, it will most likely be under the limits set forth by the time you test as long as the test is 5+ days out. However it is important to note that the fat content in your body makes huge different. For example, I am fat. I would be concerned taking a test 1.5 weeks after smoking a bowl (0.3-0.6 grams) or two. On the flipside, one of my best friends is around 6ft tall, and weighs maybe 120lbs. He smoked relatively often and passed a urine test 3 days afterwards. Though it does depend largely on your fat content, genetic makeup does also play a difference.

Note: For the purpose of this discussion, I would estimate a bowl to be 0.5-1 grams.

Hair tests are rare for employment, and I doubt that they'll be testing it. Even if they did, I doubt smoking a joint once would cause anything to show up.

Based off what you've said so far, I wouldn't worry about the test.

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    Can you define what a bowl is for those that never smoked one. It will make the answer better.
    – Donald
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 17:01
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    ...I sure was not expecting to see that sort of request for clarification today.
    – kleineg
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 18:53
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    +1, with added emphasis that if having smoked once weeks ago SHOULD put you under any limits: Otherwise even breathing air in a room that had someone smoking in it once would put you at risk.
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 10:58


Don't lie. But you have right to refuse to answer any question.

Leaving apart the fact, if making drug/alcohol/tobacco/peanut tests on the work candidates makes any sense at all, if you company makes such tests, they probably are legal (the tests, not the company) because no big company is likely to risk allegations of "discrimination based on arbitrary criteria".

But from you post, you've learned, that the company is likely to do such tests from some "unofficial" sources. Unofficial sources are, well, unofficial, and there's nothing unhonest in not saying something you were not expected to say.

However, it would be probably better not to lie if asked, if you had taken any drugs in last X days. If you suspect some legal consequences, just refuse to answer and refuse to take the test, but unless confronted with it, it should be assumed you acted in good faith (not telling any facts from your private life you were not asked for).

As a potential employer, I can't imagine any rational reason for willing to know if my workers drink alcohol or smoke joints in their free time, as long as it doesn't affect their work performance. As for addicts, you can be addicted to computer games or SMSes as well.

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    If anything I think a (non legally mandated) drugs testing program would be something of a red flag for me; it implies an environment of suspicion Commented May 21, 2014 at 14:02
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    @RichardTingle - It is quite common with many companies to do a pre-employment drug screen. And some places mandate random drug testing due to safety concerns. If you are wasted and operating a machine you are a danger to me and everyone else around. Its about prevention not suspicion. Commented May 21, 2014 at 20:40
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    It's also fairly common for companies to do targeted "random" drug tests. I've been at a few places where they did so just to have a solid legal case for terminating certain people that were known smokers without having to worry about not following the normal handbook rules.
    – NotMe
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 21:44

You might consider declining the job (and the test). I would not want to have a positive drug test in my history. I know that confidentiality rules should prevent any one from learning the results (other than those in the specific chain that are expected to learn the results). But information has a way of spreading. Could someone at this company talk to someone at another company and jeopardize your chances there (not legal, but if they aren't caught, how would you know)?

If I thought there was a possibility that I would legitimately fail a test, I would not take it. There will of course be consequences for this job, but it would end there. You don't have to disclose your reason for withdrawing from consideration, so rumors of drug use would not follow you beyond this point.

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    If it were a significant job, relevant to my career aspirations then I would be inclined to agree. However, as it is merely a minimum wage summer job that I'm taking for extra cash I don't consider it particularly likely to find me in the future.
    – user19633
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 20:20
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    It's a small world, and you often reconnect with people you'd never expect. Right now the drug use is between you and your fellow participants. I would keep it that way by not talking a test I had any chance of failing. Either way, best of luck to you. Commented May 23, 2014 at 20:41

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