NYC Bill Aims To End Marijuana Testing Of Job Applicants

By Victoria Kim 04/17/19

The bill is one of several efforts being made to reform marijuana policy while progress has stalled on legalizing it statewide.

Image: 
doctor preparing urine test for marijuana use.

New York City may become the first jurisdiction in the country to pass a law that would explicitly bar employers from screening job applicants for marijuana use.

The city council “overwhelmingly” passed a bill (with a 40-4 vote) that would prevent most employers from this practice, the New York Times reports.

“If we want to be a progressive city, we have to really put these things into action,” said the city’s public advocate Jumaane D. Williams, who authored the bill.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has signaled his support of the legislation, which according to the NYT would be the first in the U.S. to prohibit employers from marijuana testing job applicants.

If enacted, the law will affect both public and private employers in New York City, including companies that have headquarters elsewhere, Williams said.

The bill would not excuse every worker from being tested, however. A handful of occupations—including construction, law enforcement, child care, medical care, truck driving and aviation—would be exempt from the rule. Employers may also test workers if they appear to be under the influence of marijuana at work. Federal or state employees and government contractors are also exempt as they do not fall under the city’s jurisdiction.

The mayor is expected to sign the bill into law. It is one of several efforts being made to reform marijuana policy while progress has stalled on legalizing it statewide.

Another bill passed by the city council would stop the city from requiring marijuana testing for people on probation, according to the NYT.

NY lawmakers have made little progress on marijuana legalization, but Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office told CBS News that he was “still negotiating to legalize marijuana by the end of the legislative session in June.” Issues like equity programs—to ensure that people of color are guaranteed a stake in the growing industry to make up for years of being disproportionately affected by anti-marijuana laws—have gotten in the way of reaching a deal thus far.

“I’m proud that the city has taken action where the federal and the state government have stalled,” said Williams.

In 1986, former President Ronald Reagan issued an executive order calling for “drug-free workplaces,” mandating drug testing at federal agencies. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, in 2011 more than half of U.S. employers conducted drug screenings on job applicants.

However, some disagree that drug testing is a reliable method of predicting job performance.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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