New York City Stops Testing Job Applicants For Weed Use

New York City has enacted a new law preventing employers from drug-testing their job applicants.

Over the weekend, New York passed a law, known as Local Law 91, that eliminates pre-employment drug testing for cannabis use in most professions. The ban was approved last year and means that cannabis tests would only be permissible in the instance of a job role that requires the use of heavy machinery and a few other exceptions such as police officers and those working with children.

Precisely which jobs will be exempt from cannabis testing still needs to be made set in stone, though the State Government website states that the City of New York will vote to "add exceptions, based on considerations of health and safety, to the general prohibition on pre-employment testing for tetrahydrocannabinol or marijuana."

The new drug-testing policy comes as a result of the sustained prevalence of cannabis in one's body after usage. Unlike alcohol, which leaves the body within a day of use, cannabis can remain in the system for up to a month after usage, meaning that some people would have to cease use entirely including on weekends.

"Science has proven that cannabis can stay in one's system up to a month after consumption. This means a positive test for marijuana does not prove one is impaired while at work," DeVaughn Ward, senior legislative counsel at Marijuana Policy Project said, of the New York ban on marijuana testing. However, Mr. Ward argues that New York's newly enacted laws don't go far enough.

"MPP urges the Commission to reconsider the proposed rule and narrowly tailor the exceptions to those expressly required by" the original legislation.

This is a sentiment echoed by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who helped sponsor and push the initial legislation that created the ban, saying that there shouldn't be any jobs that require marijuana testing.

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"No individual should be tested for THC, and I stand firmly against any expansion of exemptions to Local Law 91," Williams stated. Creating more exemptions and loopholes to this law will unjustifiably deter qualified employees from obtaining gainful employment."

"The City should be pushing to reduce the stigma around marijuana and working to restore justice for the millions of black and brown communities who have been the victims of marijuana criminalization and discrimination," Williams concluded.

Contrasting these views was the National Drug and Alcohol Screening Association, who stated that "restricting an employer's right to test for THC is the first step to prohibiting employers from all substance testing that puts accident, injury and fatality liability directly upon them."

"Without exempting all employers or offering the ability to opt-in or out of Local Law 91 then a burden will be put on the shoulders of employers that would prefer to provide safe work environments by forcing them to accept applicants that are using a known impairing substance," the company stated.

While recreational marijuana isn't yet legal in New York, the new law reflects a growing acceptance of cannabis in daily life and an acknowledgment that having residual THC in a person's blood from cannabis use a week prior, shouldn't cost someone their job.

The law also comes into play just months after the announcement that cannabis legalization wouldn't be included in the State's accelerated budget, despite Governor Andrew Cuomo suggesting otherwise. Though that wasn't the first time NYC has pushed for weed legalization.

New York has endeavored to legalize the plant for several years now, with efforts largely coming from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who previously sought the counsel of the Department of Health to help him determine whether he should legalizing the plant. In response, the DOH stated that the War on Weed "had not curbed marijuana use despite the commitment of significant law enforcement resources."

The marijuana momentum is continually growing in NYC, and many remain hopeful that the state will legalize cannabis in the coming years.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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