PUEBLO WEST, Colo. - More than 10 percent of candidates who have applied for a job at Swerdfeger Construction this year failed a pre-employment drug test.
"We want a 100 percent good employee that is not a danger to themselves," said Keith Swerdfeger, chairman of Swerdfeger Construction.
The civil construction company employs about 250 people and is looking to hire another 50 more. But more employee candidates have failed drug tests this year than ever before, said Swerdfeger. Of the 22 people who applied for a job with the company in July, seven tested positive for marijuana. Swerdfeger believes the legalization of recreational marijuana is to blame.
"I think it's more available. People are not afraid of using marijuana," he said.
So far this year, 14 job candidates have tested positive for drugs. In 2013, six candidates tested positive for drugs compared to seven people in 2012.
PROCOM, a drug-testing facility in Pueblo, reports an increase in the number of individuals getting drug tested this year. The company's president, Ann Peterson, said there has been a nearly 20 percent increase in the number of people who have tested positive for THC, the active chemical in marijuana, compared to the same time last year.
Peterson told KRDO NewsChannel 13 she's also seen more individuals coming to her office, looking to get drug tested before applying for a job. "More individuals are coming on their own power, paying for a test on their own, just to ensure that they are clean," she said.
As for how long marijuana stays in the body, Peterson said it varies. "The window of detection for marijuana solely depends on how long a person has been a user and how chronic the use is."
Chronic users could have marijuana in their systems for 10 to 11 weeks, Peterson said.
Despite the legalization of marijuana sales, companies still have the right to drug test an employee for marijuana use. Swerdfeger Construction is obligated under federal law to do so.
"We have no choice, Swerdfeger said. "It's just good policy to make sure that our workforce is drug free."