Have you gone out to eat in a restaurant anywhere in the US over the past year and been disappointed by slow service or scatterbrained staff?
There is a one in 12 chance your server was stoned on the job, figures suggest.
A recent analysis of over six million urine tests from Quest Diagnostics, the world’s largest network of diagnostic labs, showed that in 2022 over eight percent of restaurant staff use cannabis either in their free time or during work.
The rate of urine tests among food service workers coming back positive for marijuana has more than doubled since 2018 – amid a wave of legalizations of the drug.
The food service industry led the way in workers who use marijuana with a 43 percent increase in positivity, having risen from about 5 percent in 2018 to seven percent in 2022
There has been a steady upward slope across all major industries, most drastically among food service and hospitality workers, followed by retail workers, drivers and warehouse workers, realtors, and wholesale traders
The above shows cannabis use across American states. Twenty-one states and DC have legalized it for recreational use in addition to medicinal use, while nearly all now allow it to be used for medicinal purposes.
The rapidly rising rates of marijuana use across all industries from retail to warehousing reflect growing society-wide acceptance of the drug, which is now legal for recreational use in 21 states and the District of Columbia and nearly all now allow it to be used for medicinal purposes.
The marked increase in cannabis use among restaurant workers from 2018 tracks with that year’s wave of measures to loosen prohibition on the drug.
For example, in 2018, Vermont became the first state in the nation to enact legalization by an act of lawmakers instead of through a ballot initiative and was signed by a Republican governor.
Also in 2018, voters in three deep red states – Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah – overwhelmingly approved medical cannabis via ballot measures while at the same time electing Republicans to federal office or nominating conservative candidates for statewide office.
While these and subsequent legislative moves have represented major wins for marijuana legalization activists, many everyday Americans are less than thrilled about their impacts on the service industry.
Steve Cuozzo, the New York Post’s restaurant critic, said: ‘Am I the only one who thinks most NYC service workers are stoned? Starbucks, fast food, Duane Reade, waiters etc? Can’t make change, lose track of what they’re doing?’
Another frustrated netizen said: ‘I find it funny most of time, but I just had a restaurant server lose my credit card. Yep, gone never to be seen again. My best guess is that it went into the trash by accident.’
Rates at which people use marijuana have spiked 54 percent across industries over the past five years, from a rate of 2.8 percent of workers testing positive for the drug in 2018 to 4.3 percent in 2022, the largest marijuana positivity rate since 1997.
Accommodation and Food Services led the way with a 43 percent increase in positivity, having risen from about 5 percent in 2018 to seven percent in 2022.
The states where marijuana is legal for recreational use saw the steepest increases in test positivity rates. In states with legal recreational weed, positivity rates increased nearly 12 percent from 2021 to 2022. In states where the drug is only legal for medical purposes, the increase was slighter at about eight percent.
The latest positivity data was gleaned from more than 6.3 million urine tests conducted in the workforce and analyzed by Quest Diagnostics. After the food service industry, the retail industry had the largest share of workers using marijuana.
Keith Ward, General Manager and Vice President for Employer Solutions at Quest Diagnostics said: ‘This historic rise seems to correspond with sharp increases in positivity for marijuana in both pre-employment and post-accident drug tests, suggesting that changing societal attitudes about marijuana may be impacting workplace behaviors and putting colleagues at risk.’
Still, these staggering increases do not necessarily mean the server is high on the job, just that they use the drug in general.
THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, is fat-soluble, meaning it binds to fat molecules in the body which means it can linger for days or even weeks, depending on the frequency of use. So a person who used the drug on a Saturday could test positive on Tuesday.
But the steady upward slope across all major industries, which has coincided with a wave of legalization efforts over the past decade, suggests that more people are using the drug in general which could include the workplace.
And with rising overall use increasing by the year Many people may choose to smoke, vape, or take an edible before work to boost their mood or creativity, though there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the drug offers no creative benefit.