Pre-employment Marijuana Testing Ban Takes Effect In New York City

May 12th, 2020

Press Release

A ban on pre-employment testing for marijuana usage took effect in New York City beginning this week. This landmark marijuana justice measure sponsored by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams is among the first of its kind, particularly in a state in which use of recreational marijuana has not been legalized.

The local law, which was voted on by the City Council last 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 are provided for certain safety and security sensitive jobs, and those tied to a federal or state contract or grant.

"Marijuana testing isn't a deterrent to using the drug, it's an impediment to opportunity dating back to the Reagan area - one that disadvantages low-income workers, often workers of more color, many of whom we now call essential but treat as expendable." said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. "Particularly now, as we are grappling with how to recover from the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the worst levels of unemployment in a century, 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. This is an economic recovery issue, a worker justice issue, and one that New York City must lead the way on."

More information for employers and prospective employees on the implementation of the law is available from the NYC Commission on Civil and Human Rights here.

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. Vox reported in 2018 that as many as 70% of large employers utilize pre-employment drug screenings, encompassing as many as 40% of jobs. This 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.

New York State has not yet legalized recreational marijuana, although polling indicates that a majority of residents support legalization.

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