Screening Job Applicants For Marijuana Use Is Now Against The Law In NYC

By Victoria Kim 05/15/19

NYC is the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to explicitly prohibit this practice.

employer trying to screen a job applicant for marijuana use

Most New York City employers can no longer require a marijuana test from job applicants as a condition of employment. The new law, which the City Council “overwhelmingly” passed in April with a 40-4 vote, will take effect in May 2020.

“If we want to be a progressive city, we have to really put these things into action,” bill sponsor and NYC public advocate Jumaane D. Williams said at the time.

NYC is the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to explicitly prohibit this practice.

While Mayor Bill de Blasio had said that he would sign the legislation—calling it a “healthy step” and “part of how we change our culture to be less punitive and exclusionary”—he ultimately did not sign.

Marijuana Moment reports that it is “unclear what changed” between then and now. Regardless, the law will take effect in one year.

The bill’s text reads: “[E]xcept as otherwise provided by law, it shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer, labor organization, employment agency, or agent thereof to require a prospective employee to submit to testing for the presence of tetrahydrocannabinols or marijuana in such prospective employee’s system as a condition of employment.”

Certain occupations—“safety and security sensitive jobs”—are exempt from the rule including construction, law enforcement, child care, medical care, truck driving and aviation.

Federal or state employees and government contractors are also exempt as they do not fall under the city’s jurisdiction. Employers may also test workers if they appear to be under the influence of marijuana at work.

Williams, who authored the legislation, says the city will not wait for the state government to legalize marijuana for it to start reforming marijuana policies. “NYC must lead the way on this issue,” he stated.

New York’s efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational use have lost momentum ahead of the time remaining in New York’s legislative session.

The New York Times notes that while it is still possible for the state to “legalize it” by late June, it’s unclear whether NY lawmakers have finally come to agree on the details of the marijuana legalization initiative.

“It’s clear that we cannot wait until legalization on the state level before moving to reduce the impact that marijuana prohibition has had on individuals and communities,” said Williams. “Testing isn’t a deterrent to using marijuana, it’s an impediment to opportunity that dates back to the Reagan era—a war on drugs measure that’s now a war on workers. We need to be creating more access points for employment, not less—and if prospective employers aren’t testing for past alcohol usage, marijuana should be no different.”

If legalization does not happen this year, the state is planning to expand its medical marijuana program, NYT reported.

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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