Job applicants seeking employment with the city of Cincinnati may soon no longer have to face a drug test for marijuana.
That is the underlying motivation behind a pair of proposals being considered by the Cincinnati city council, which this week heard arguments over how the city government treats cannabis use among prospective employees.
One proposal would prohibit the city from using misdemeanor marijuana convictions as a disqualifying factor for jobs. Another would seek to end the practice of testing job applicants for marijuana.
Together, the twin proposals would shift the way the city treats marijuana, essentially making its use comparable to drinking alcohol.
Existing Laws Prevent Employment
According to local TV station WKRC, one of the proposals stems from testimony that the council heard from a 35-year-old resident named Leon Washington, who said he was denied a job after a background check revealed a marijuana ticket he had received when he was just 19 years old.
“The job I applied for may have been, like, 10 years after the fact of this charge, but that charge still held me back from receiving a job,” Washington said, as quoted by WKRC.
Washington lamented the missed opportunity, saying that the starting pay for that particular position was more than what he earns right now. The experience inspired him to attend the city council meeting and urge them to revise Cincinnati’s hiring policies.
P.G. Sittenfeld, a member of the Cincinnati city council, concurs, pointing to the fact that the council decriminalized possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana earlier this year.
“These are good-paying, middle-class jobs. People shouldn’t be barred from that because they might have used a substance that we the city have now declared isn’t even illegal anyway,” said Sittenfeld, as quoted by WKRC.
But Sittenfeld also supports getting rid of marijuana testing entirely, and is currently taking up legislation that would end that practice as well.
“Think about alcohol as the comparison. If somebody wants to go out and have a couple of beers on a Friday night, they can still come to the city on Monday morning and be an accountant and work as a firefighter, whatever it might be,” Sittenfeld said.
There are recent examples of what Sittenfeld is trying to accomplish. Earlier this year, the New York City council overwhelmingly passed legislation that will prohibit most employers in the city from forcing applicants to be tested for marijuana, an unprecedented measure.
Employers in NYC will be required to comply with the new law on May 10, 2020.