City Council Committee Votes Unanimously to End Drug Testing of Prospective Employees

City legislators worry job seekers might get penalized for using cannabis, when it may end up being legalized down the road

Medical cannabis grown for commercial sale in Lesotho (Emma Vickers/NY City Lens)

Medical cannabis grown for commercial sale in Lesotho (Emma Vickers/NY City Lens)

New York City Council’s Committee on Civil and Human Rights  voted unanimously Monday for a new city law that will prohibit drug testing by employers. The law specifically seeks to prevent employers requiring prospective employees to submit to testing for THC, the active drug in marijuana, as part of pre-hiring screening. The law will now be sent to the full council for a vote.

The committee vote followed a December commitment by New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo that marijuana would be fully legalized as part of his 2019 agenda. Mayor Bill De Blasio has also endorsed cannabis legalization in New York City.

In his opening statement, Committee Chair Mathieu Eugene explained the importance of the law in the context of growing calls for legalization in New York and beyond. “Unlike alcohol or other recreational drugs, the active ingredients in marijuana can linger in the system for weeks,” he said. “This potentially leaves New Yorkers vulnerable to failing a work related marijuana drug test even if they were legally consuming marijuana.”

Medical marijuana, as opposed to recreational use marijuana, is already legal in New York state, and over 96,000 patients are registered to access the drug, according to the state’s Department of Health.

“What we’re trying to prevent is that some people get punished for doing what the legislation allows them to do,” Eugene continued.

Marijuana prohibition has disproportionately affected some communities in New York, according to a February 2018 report released by John Jay College of Justice, and referenced by the committee. The report found that racial disparities persisted in arrests for marijuana charges over the last two decades.

And it’s not just arrests. Clyde Thomson is a community worker in the Claremont neighborhood of the Bronx, where 93 percent of the population identify as black or Latino. Many in his community use marijuana and he believes drug testing has kept young people from the neighborhood from accessing jobs, he told NY City Lens in an interview in February.

“You can’t pick up trash in the city of New York without a high school diploma and a drug test,” he said.

The move to legalize marijuana has slowed in New York in recent weeks. In a March speech on the 2019 budget, Cuomo said that marijuana would not be included in this year’s state revenue, and would instead be rolled over to the next budget period, suggesting a delay in legalization beyond 2019. And a vote in to legalize in New Jersey was recently canceled after lawmakers failed to be assured of enough votes in its favor.

Despite this, Ben Kallos, a Democratic council member for East Harlem and the Upper East Side, who voted in favor of the new city law, remained positive about the prospects of legalization in New York City.

“We’re going to legalize marijuana and people should not be penalized for using it,” he said. “It’s common sense.”

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4 Responses to "City Council Committee Votes Unanimously to End Drug Testing of Prospective Employees"

  1. Brian Kelly  April 9, 2019 at 10:25 am

    Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Nationwide!

    Reply
  2. Tim Thoelecke  April 9, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    Is this about making drug testing illegal? Or specifically marijuana testing? THC accounts for 43% of positive drug tests. The rest is other drugs, like cocaine, meth, heroin, etc.

    Just because some states have legalized marijuana does not make it any safer than it was before. In fact, today’s marijuana is much stronger and more impairing than ever.

    When a non-user is injured by a using co-worker, what does the employer do when he’s sued for negligent hiring?

    Reply
  3. Brian Kelly  April 9, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Tim Thoelecke,

    Bologna. Nothing but utter modern day Reefer Madness type of nonsense. The stronger the marijuana, the less people consume at one time. Just you don’y drink as much wine or beer as you do 180 proof rum at one time.

    Infinitely more workers end up impaired at work, calling out of work or in a stupor because of alcohol than marijuana.

    Why doesn’t alcohol concern you much more than relatively benign marijuana? It should.

    Legalizing Marijuana will not create a massive influx of marijuana impaired employees in our workplaces.

    It will not create a huge influx of professionals (doctors, pilots, bus drivers, etc..) under the influence on the job either.

    This is a prohibitionist propaganda scare tactic.

    Truth: Responsible workers don’t go to work while impaired on any substance period!

    Irresponsible employees already share our workplaces, and they will work while impaired regardless of their drug of choice’s legality.

    Therefore, legalizing marijuana will have little to zero impact on the amount of marijuana impaired employees in our workplaces.

    Responsible people do not go to work impaired, period. Regardless of their drug of choice’s legality.

    Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All American pastime, booze.

    Equal rights and protections as alcohol drinkers in our workplaces and everywhere else.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Marijuana Nationwide!

    Reply
  4. Diana santinello  April 11, 2019 at 10:10 am

    You can’t drink alcohol on the job, an employee should not be smoking marijuana on the job. I would assume they would be fired for doing so just as if someone showed up drunk to work or drank while on the job.
    Btw, alcohol is leagal, someone can drink all night and go to work the next morning partially impaired and definitely hung over. But that’s okay.
    Alcohol is dangerous and deadly, it’s damaging to your body and makes you completely impaired, people are killed by drunk drivers all the time, but alcohol is legal.
    Legalize! and stop thc testing!

    Reply

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