Williams’ Bill Banning Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing Enacted

Jumaane Williams
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ legislation that would ban employers from testing prospective employees for marijuana usage in pre-employment hiring practices has now become city law.

On April 9, the City Council approved the legislation that has been enacted after passing the 30-day deadline without action from the Mayor. The landmark marijuana justice measure is among the first of its kind, particularly in a state in which use of recreational marijuana has not been legalized.

“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,” said Williams.

Local Law 091 of 2019, which will take effect in one year, bans pre-employment testing for marijuana usage in the vast majority of cases. New York City employers will no longer be able to require a prospective employee to submit to testing for the presence of any tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, in such prospective employee’s system as a condition of employment.

Exceptions will be provided for certain safety and security sensitive jobs, and those tied to a federal or state contract or grant.

The legislation does not prevent employers from testing for usage while on the job or imposing penalties for that usage, rather it is aimed at removing an unnecessary barrier toward seeking employment.

“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,” added Williams.

Cannabis accounts for about half of all positive results on drug tests, and failed tests lead to an inability for many to advance in their careers. According to recent reporting, as many as 70% of large employers utilize pre-employment drug screenings, encompassing as many as 40% of jobs.  

Enactment of the legislation comes as the New York State legislature is in the midst of debate over legalization. Just last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo casted doubt on the possibility of Albany approving the bill within the legislative session.

Williams has previously adopted resolutions calling for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to add marijuana usage to its list of ‘overlooked offenses’ and calling for the expungement of records for marijuana-related offenses.

Last year, he introduced legislation to prevent the Department of Sanitation and the Taxi and Limousine Commission from using cannabis offenses as the sole reason for denial of license or dismissal from employment.

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