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In the age of legal marijuana, many employers drop ‘zero tolerance’ drug tests

When Rye Electric was founded in Orange County five years ago, it screened all prospective workers for drugs. If a test showed traces of cannabis, the applicant was nixed.

But the fast-growing construction company, which has a millennial-heavy workforce, has since adapted to the times. “We still do the tests,” Chief Executive Chris Golden said, “but we choose to look the other way on marijuana.”

Some 20 of the company’s 150 workers were hired despite flunking a pre-employment screening for cannabis. “We let them know they can’t do it on the job and we trust them not to,” Golden said. “What are we going to say – you can’t do something that’s legal?”

Marijuana use remains illegal under federal law. But California was the first state to defy federal prohibition, legalizing medical cannabis in 1996. A 2016 ballot initiative opened the way to recreational pot.

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