Emerald Fields retail marijuana customer sniffs a sample.
Photograph by Andy Cross—Denver Post via Getty Images
By Jeff John Roberts
June 8, 2016

The Washington Post suggested on Wednesday that it may change its drug policy so as to stop testing staff members for marijuana use.

News of the policy shift came about during an all-staff meeting, and was reported on Twitter by Mike Madden, an editor with the Post:

Madden added that the issue arose in response to a staff question and that the company has not issued a formal memo on the subject. A spokesperson, meanwhile, confirmed Madden’s account.

“The Post does pre-employment drug screening for all employees, and we are currently reviewing that policy,” said Jennifer Lee, communications manager at the Washington Post, via email. It’s unclear where Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon (AMZN), which bought the Post in 2013, stands on marijuana legalization.

The debate at the Post is likely to echo at other companies at a time when marijuana use in the U.S. is gaining widespread legal and social acceptance. In this context, it may become increasingly difficult for employers to justify testing their workers for pot—especially in jobs that do not have a public safety element.

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As the ACLU and other civil liberties groups have noted, the process of demanding body fluids from employees is an invasive procedure, and one that may not serve any obvious benefit.

Meanwhile, a recent article in the Washington Post argued for an end to employers screening for marijuana. Among the reasons it cites is that pot is most likely to be detected in a test, whereas more serious drugs like cocaine or meth will not turn up since they are flushed from the body more quickly.

An end to marijuana tests may not come anytime soon, however, because there is a large industry devoted to supplying the tests. Companies like Quest Diagnostics (DGX) , for instance, reportedly tests millions of urine samples every year and, along with other firms, is ramping up a lobbying push to block marijuana reform.

According to Allen St. Pierre of NORML, a pro-marijuana advocacy group, the rate of pot testing among employers has held steady around 48% in recent years.

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