New York City Bans Pre-Employment Testing for Cannabis

The New York City Council passed a bill Tuesday to ban employers from pre-employment testing for cannabis.

The bill prohibits employers from requiring a prospective employee to submit to testing for tetradydrocannabinol (THC) as a condition of employment. The move would put cannabis on the same level as alcohol and scale back a practice that only serves as a barrier to employment.

Opponents of pre-employment testing, like New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams who sponsored the bill, argue that testing for THC does more harm than cannabis itself with applicants being rejected for a positive test or applicants not applying to certain jobs at all due to requiring drug tests. “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,” Williams said.

As many as 70 percent of companies with more than 2,500 employees use pre-employment drug testing, which covers roughly 40 percent of all jobs. More companies have been moving away from testing for cannabis as it shuts out a large portion of prospective employees amidst expanding legalization of cannabis across the country. A bill was introduced to Congress late last year that protected federal employees from losing their jobs due to cannabis use in legal states, but that bill only protects those who already have jobs.

The bill provides exceptions for security-sensitive jobs and jobs that are tied to a federal or state contract or grant as the city can’t pre-empt state or federal law. Williams said the exceptions grew out of the negotiations to move the bill forward, but he hopes to see it changed in the future. “If you ingest weed in whatever manner a month ago, I’m not sure how that prevents you from doing your job now,” Williams said.

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