What I Use Is Legal – Now What?


What I Use Is Legal – Now What?

By Adam Hall, Staff Writer and Editor at Current Consulting Group (CCG)

This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein.

Have you ever had a medication prescription and wondered how it might affect a required drug test? Should you present your prescription to the collector at the same time you give your sample? Perhaps you live in a state where marijuana use is legal. What does the drug testing process look like for those who use a legal substance?

The answers to these questions are not exactly straightforward. In this article we will take a closer look at some of these answers and learn more about the medical review process.

Should I Bring My Prescription Medication to the Collection Facility?

The short answer is no. Although most collectors go through some form of training or certification process, it is unlikely they are trained in how certain medications may impact a drug test. Even if the collector is a trained medical professional, the role of the collector does not include any sort of medical review for the donor. In most cases, the donor will be given a copy of the chain of custody form (CCF) that is used to complete the collection. The best practice is for the donor to list their current medication on their personal copy of the CCF to be referenced later if necessary.

What Is the Medical Review Process?

A Medical Review Officer (MRO) is a licensed physician responsible for reviewing any non-negative result (e.g., positive, invalid, canceled, etc.) produced by a testing laboratory. The MRO oversees the medical review process, in which prescription medications or other legal substances will be taken into consideration prior to releasing a result to the employer. The MRO acts as the gatekeeper of results to ensure a donor’s private medical information is not released to an employer.

During the medical review process, the MRO will contact the donor to discuss the laboratory’s findings and determine if a valid prescription caused the non-negative outcome. This verification process may be completed by contacting pharmacies or prescribing physicians, but this decision is ultimately up to the MRO. Upon completing the verification process, the MRO will release a final result to the employer.

Marijuana Is Legal in My State, Can I Use It?

This answer is exceptionally tricky because in many states that support legal marijuana, regardless of medicinal or recreational use, it is up to the employer to make the decision as to whether they will tolerate use. This decision is typically outlined in the company’s drug testing policy which should be made available to all applicants and employees.

A common misunderstanding about medicinal marijuana is that an individual can obtain a valid marijuana prescription. An individual may hold a legitimate medical marijuana card, but this card does not carry the same weight of an actual medical prescription. This is important to understand because during the medical review process, an MRO may not overturn a positive marijuana result simply because the donor has a valid card. In cases like this, the MRO may work directly with the employer to determine the appropriate course of action based on the company’s marijuana policy.

Are There Exceptions to the Medical Review Process?

The list of exceptions to the medical review process can be lengthy, so it is necessary for employers to work out specific policy details with the MRO. If you have a valid prescription and your laboratory result is positive due to that medication, the MRO will report the result to the employer as negative in most cases. However, it is important to understand that a valid prescription does not always mean an individual is cleared for work. In some cases, an MRO may express concern to an employer due to potential side effects of the medication that could pose a risk to workplace safety. Similarly, if an MRO is not aware of a company’s marijuana use policy, they may still report a result as positive regardless of legal classification. This is especially true if a drug screen is completed at a federal level, where marijuana is still classified as an illegal substance.


Prescription medication or legal marijuana can create additional steps in the overall drug testing process. In most cases, there is a clear path forward regarding the handling of valid prescriptions and legal marijuana, and this process is led by the MRO and his or her team. Knowing what an employer will tolerate regarding prescription use or marijuana use should be clearly outlined in the company’s drug testing policy and understood by all parties.

Wondering how to include such information in your drug-free workplace policy? Contact the Current Consulting Group at [email protected] to learn more about how we can help you create a new policy or update your existing policy.

© 2010-2022 The Current Consulting Group, LLC – No portion of this article may be reproduced, retransmitted, posted on a website, or used in any manner without the written consent of the Current Consulting Group, LLC. When permission is granted to reproduce this article in any way, full attribution to the author and copyright holder is required.


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