Three Fired For Failing Drug Test

By |Published On: May 19th, 2019|

We’ve been waiting patiently for a headline like this to come along. At Fields Of Green For ALL we are never far away from another email describing how an employee was dismissed without warning for failing a cannabis drug test. It is probably the greyest area of last September’s Constitutional Court ‘privacy’ judgement. Cannabis users now have a constitutional right to use the plant at home in ‘private’, but three people who did just that, were fired from their workplace without warning for failing a urine test.
Pretty much every time it happens, we suggest the employee  starts by taking the dismissal to the Commission For Conciliation, Mediation & Arbitration (CCMA), SA’s dispute resolution body.

Few people do. The majority are either too scared, or broke, or too crushed to deal with the pressure. The people in this instance worked for a wood chip factory in Durban who, like most South African companies, have a ‘zero tolerance’ to ‘drugs’ in the workplace. This means do not arrive at work intoxicated. However, this also means the company must be able to prove their employee is intoxicated – something as yet impossible to prove in the case of dagga.

The world over, governments are pouring money into the holy grail of drug testing; trying to figure out what ‘stoned’ is. It is easy to detect weed in the blood/urine/hair/DNA, but was the employee at the time too stoned to operate? Very unlikely in our opinion.

Local Constitutional Law expert Pierre de Vos waded into the argument which we were frankly, surprised to see. He has always been quite dismissive of cannabis in general so a critique by this esteemed expert was most welcome. In his Constitutionally Speaking column he laid out the facts of the case and surmised the CCMA had made a huge error, displaying a complete ignorance of the test procedure and what the results mean. His parting shot was “I suspect the dismissed employees from NCT Durban Wood Chips were hard done by.”

So do we.

South Africa isn’t unique with this problem of a blanket ‘zero tolerance’. Canada was the first G8 country in the world to ‘legalise’ cannabis in 2018. However, the word ‘legal’ is a bit misleading. There are new, draconian rules and regulations in place, including a resurgence of workplace drug testing. Workers are being fired for testing positive in a ‘legal’ country too which has prompted one Canadian attorney to remark “if you are in the job market…you would be well advised to abstain from cannabis”.

In the USA, California State legalisation has meant some companies are now walking back their zero tolerance policies because they know THC showing up in the system is absolutely no indicator of a person’s work ability. It’ll be a long time before the prejudice component of a drug test is put to rest. All this cannabis screening is simply discriminatory. Nothing’s changed with the ConCourt judgement in that respect.

 We have a long journey ahead of us in this regard. Someone has to step up to the plate with a sympathetic legal team and get this thrashed out in a court of law. The courts have so far stood us in good stead on the road to full legalisation.
With front page headlines in two of the country’s most popular Saturday newspapers, and headlines on street poles like the ones above – we hope this is enough to ignite a much needed debate as to the unintended consequences of workplace testing. Let’s talk about the drug apartheid of what drug you’ll be tested for, the slim reason for being tested in the first place and the privacy and human rights violations of demanding someones bodily fluids on an arbitrary basis.

If this has happened to you in SA ,and you feel like telling us about it, please email us or leave your contact details in the comments below.




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About the Author: Jules Stobbs

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  1. Lee May 31, 2021 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    I have just been offered a position with a company in the mining industry. they require an entry medical exam which includes urine testing for drugs including cannabis.
    I have been using cannabis strictly in my private time and I know that the test will be positive for cannabis use. the company has a 0 tolerance policy and their requirements are that employees abstain from using cannabis in order to have a clean drug test.
    I feel that this is a gross invasion of my right to consume cannabis and my right to privacy of use.

    • Myrtle Clarke June 3, 2021 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Hi Lee, I really wish there was something we could do about this right now. We’ve finally managed to get things going on an interdict against the police and we are working with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits University. I will remember your story and once the papers are in for the interdict I can discuss the issue of Cannabis in the workplace with their team. For now, you are going to have to stop using Cannabis if you want that job. It sucks.

  2. Allie February 16, 2021 at 11:13 pm - Reply

    0664395357 plz I advise me

  3. Lee July 22, 2020 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    person tests positive for cannabis at pre -employment medical , do they get hired or not , would it not be unfair to deny employment if it is legal to use recreationally especially before there was prospects of employment. being in the job market suggests that there was a reasonable expectation for employment thus irresponsible to have been smoking, should they get hired on condition they remain off the stuff and consent to regular tests ??

    • Alex February 22, 2021 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      Hi, is there an update on this? Was the job denied?

  4. Kyle January 9, 2020 at 10:11 am - Reply

    Good day ..i just wanted to know according to the new saliva test available to test for cannibus .can i ask to be tested with the new saliva test instead of doing a urine test when my employer wants to test me? .or must i just submut to their testing method

    • Jo January 9, 2020 at 2:26 pm - Reply

      Hi Kyle.
      You are welcome to ask them, but they may insist that you pay for the test as it’s not part of the standard testing routine at the moment. They can also only test you if you have given consent in your employment contract.

      An extract from this article:
      “Where an employee is tested, such test must comply with s7 of the Employment Equity Act, No 55 of 1998. The employer must also ensure that testing for cannabis is voluntary and confidential. The employer may introduce a condition of employment that makes it obligatory to undergo regular medical testing if employment conditions justify this.”

    • Allie February 16, 2021 at 11:08 pm - Reply

      Well I was told to de a test infront of the boss I didn’t pee.but I told him I have cocaine and week in my pee because I used it over the weekend I then had to sigh. Admission of guilt.and I did was told to go home that was 2 weeks ago then was told on WhatsApp I’m not welcome at the office and they want nothing to do with me??? What do I do

      • Myrtle Clarke March 2, 2021 at 6:30 pm - Reply

        Hi, please contact our Helpline on 0631740938 and Charl will help you.

  5. DEAN VAN DYK November 19, 2019 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    I have been tested weekly for the last year. Sick of the companies policy. I always faked my test. Now the big shot heard that i was faking it all along. I do not came to work intoxicated, but enjoy my early evening smoke. I was told that i will do a pee test right in front of his face. Not sure if that is allowed. Sexual Harassment or pure evil Pedophile. Well i will get fired and karma is a bitch

    • Myrtle Clarke December 3, 2019 at 3:03 pm - Reply

      Oh dear! Such a violation of your privacy and your human rights! Please stay in touch and let us know what happens.

  6. Aobakwe Sopati May 28, 2019 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Greetings, my Name is Aobakwe Sopati from Kuruman Northern Cape, i work in Transnet as za Train Assistant… I have jst tested pNin Negative in my results. Meaning they have found THC in my system, today, When I was Testing At Kumba Iron Ore Mine….

    • Jay November 28, 2019 at 11:44 pm - Reply

      Myself and a fellow colleague was selected for random drug test. The first test was over the counter which when I enquired about the results at the clinical they dismissed it.

      I consented to a test to be done at the clinic and send to a well known Laboratory. After a couple of days Iasked my employer for my results which showed positive.

      Not satisfied with this I went to the clinic where the original testing was done and I signed consent for the clinic to reveal my results only to my manager.

      When I showed the clinic the results I received from my manager they informed me the clinic does not give results that why and I was given the right results. The results which I was tested negative was excluded. Both Laboratories agree they will never give results in that format and the Dr must sign the final results of.

      My results was made known to everyone in our branch. The laboratory report was given to the company’s Labour representative.

      • Myrtle Clarke December 3, 2019 at 2:59 pm - Reply

        Hi, please will you give our helpline a call on 0631740938. Charl will answer and please let him know where you are and what the outcome of the testing was. did you lose your job? You have recourse to approach the CCMA and we will guide you through the process. All the best, SORRY THIS HAD TO HAPPEN!

  7. court May 27, 2019 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    thank you for your insight. That really sucks.. makes no sense that it is legal and you can smoke it at home but you cant have it in your system if you work… no logic

  8. court May 26, 2019 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    Hi guys! If asked to do a drug test from our work and it is done privately can we refuse to do it?
    Surely they would need to get a company that is neutral to do a proper drug test so we know it does not get tampered with?

    • Myrtle Clarke May 27, 2019 at 7:16 am - Reply

      You could probably challenge the validity of the test in labour court but that is not the issue. The issue is that they are not proving that you are impaired by testing you, they are only testing the presence of Cannabis in your system. unfortunately we don’t have a solution to this HUGE problem. Yet. the only course of action is to go to the CCMA if you are suspended or fired. We have to keep doing this until the CCMA are forced to deal with the scientific facts. No easy solution :(

    • A Koekemoer June 11, 2019 at 4:26 pm - Reply

      I tested positive for thc. Had a disciplinary hearing and am waiting for the response. Not feeling good and feeling let down.

      • Eldridge Van Dyk November 6, 2019 at 3:37 pm - Reply

        My Wife is a Nurse smoking weed is it legal for her

        • Myrtle Clarke November 14, 2019 at 11:45 am - Reply

          Hi Eldridge,
          It is now legal for all South Africans to consume Cannabis in private and, obviously, outside of work hours. A lot depends on if your wife is tested for Cannabis at work and unfortunately we are still fighting the battle with employers who have not caught up with either the science or the law. Please continue reading our newsletter for updates on workplace testing and get hold of us straight away if she has any hassles at work.

  9. Andrew May 23, 2019 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    I got two weeks suspension. And my case wasn’t even handled properly, i got a suspension without a suspension letter and before a hearing. Just immediately blocked entry to clock in and was told to go home until I get a retest. The retest came back negative and was allowed back to work but i still have to attend a hearing after all the kak.

  10. Mr CF Henning May 22, 2019 at 9:40 am - Reply

    We are sorry this happened to you Joe. You can report unfair dismissal to the human rights commission at

  11. Joe May 21, 2019 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    Nothing new… I got fired in 2013…my work was great, the people loved me…. But yeah.. Fucked up world we live in…idiots..

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