Technology & Science

Urine sales soar as workers dodge drug tests

Oil-patch employees and other Albertans are increasingly buying real and synthetic urine to pass workplace drug tests, sellers say.

Oil-patch employees and other Albertans are increasingly buying real and synthetic urine to pass workplace drug tests, sellers say.

The oil-and-gas industry uses drug testing to ensure workers are fit to perform in potentially dangerous environments.

One oilfield worker, who runs a machine that lifts thousands of tonnes of machinery, said he smokes marijuana after hours and has purchased the substitute urine to pass the tests.

"At work, I don't smoke marijuana," the man told CBC News on condition of anonymity.

"Actually, I'm missing my two front teeth because of another fellow who was smoking weed on the job."

He said the urine, which can be purchased at retail and online stores and costs less than $50, is the only way to get around increasingly sophisticated drug tests.

Some workers stash urine in lockers

Benjamin Currie, who runs True North Hemp Company in Edmonton, said he's been selling more of the urine products recently.

Currie said some workers leave the products in their lockers in case of random testing.

"For people who get a test sprung on them and they get no warning, no time, then they will often do that, because it's like a last resort," Currie said.

He warned that fooling the drug tests could lead to unsafe workplaces.

Tests single out marijuana users: critic

But Currie also criticized the tests as unfair, because they're more likely to catch someone who smoked marijuana weeks earlier than someone who used cocaine or methamphetamine more recently.

Marijuana stays in the system longer than other drugs and can be detected longer after use.

"Firing people because there is a possibility they could have smoked pot that day, when really they could have smoked it a couple of weeks ago – they are losing valuable employees."

"Firing people because there is a possibility they could have smoked pot that day, when really they could have smoked it a couple of weeks ago, they are losing valuable employees," Currie said.

"And hiring employees who are using any other substance that wouldn't be caught in a test."

He estimated he sells dozens of the kits each week, saying they're becoming more popular than masking kits that offer inconclusive results.

Many companies have changed their regulations so they don't allow for inconclusive results, which made masks less attractive, Currie said. As well, for them to work, a user would have had to be clean for 48 hours.

The kits tend to be purchased by marijuana users, he said.

No test perfect, province says

Peter Kisner, of the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Addiction Commission, said the urine kits are legal.

He said those doing the testing can only observe from behind, making it easy for workers to substitute the clean urine for their own.

"There are no perfect systems," Kisner said.

"If you can smuggle drugs into prison systems, you are not going to have a perfect system for the workplace, either."

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