Cleveland, Ohio Mayor Ends Pre-Employment Drug Testing for Pot

Mayor Justin M. Bibb updated the city’s rules to accommodate for changes in state law.
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Cleveland, Ohio’s mayor announced the city would end its “antiquated” rules for employment, specifically removing the practice of drug-testing job applicants for cannabis.

Mayor Justin M. Bibb announced Dec. 7 that the City of Cleveland has “modernized” its Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy to remove certain language around pre-employment cannabis testing that previously automatically disqualified job applicants. It’s his latest move after pushing to expunge low-level cannabis convictions.

Pre-employment testing for city jobs will now be limited to only a few select positions that are identified as safety or security-sensitive, as well as positions that fall under the federal government’s Department of Transportation (DOT).  

The announcement was released on the same day that Issue 2 became law. Over 57% of voters in Ohio—and over 75% of Clevelanders—approved the bill 30 days ago. That means Cleveland residents approve of adult-use cannabis, three to one.

“The criminalization of marijuana in our state and the punitive effects it has had on education, housing, and employment opportunities have lasted far too long, but will eventually be a thing of the past—thanks to Ohioans who made their voices heard loud and clear last month when they voted to approve Issue 2,” said Mayor Bibb. “We are proud to continue leading the way by rolling out these updates, which builds on our prior marijuana reform efforts and other initiatives aimed at improving our HR policies.”

The following jobs are considered safety sensitive and will continue to drug test for pot:

  • Police
  • Fire
  • EMS
  • Department of Port Control
  • Positions requiring a commercial driver’s license (CDL)
  • Positions operating heavy equipment or mechanical tools

“We are constantly evaluating our policies to ensure they align with the needs and desires of both our current and prospective employees,” Director of Human Resources Matt Cole said in the release. “Pre-employment screening can oftentimes create obstacles in filling open positions by preventing otherwise qualified candidates from even applying. These policy updates are more cost-effective and will ultimately help us widen the applicant pool for several city positions.”

The city of Baltimore, as well as Washington, Nevada, and Montana have enacted similar policies, and leaders in Cleveland noticed. Despite these changes, the city will still follow rules and regulations when it comes to the Drug-Free Workplace Act.

“Maintaining a drug-free workplace is needed for obvious reasons, but it’s also important for us to be cognizant of the fact that the state is still finalizing regulation, taxation, and licensing terms and processes,” Law Director Mark Griffin said in the release. “We will be keeping a keen eye on how things get sorted out in the legislature and court system, and will adapt procedures and update policy as necessary as the situation evolves in Columbus.”

Mayor Justin Bibb

The city noted that in 2022, the Bibb Administration filed motions to expunge over 4,000 cannabis-related conviction records and then pushed for changes to State law to simplify the expungement process. 

Thanks to these efforts, Ohio Senate Bill 288 was signed into law and took effect last April, allowing city officials to expunge records more efficiently and effectively. City officials also have partnered with other agencies to hold multiple expungement clinics.  

The Bibb Administration has also spearheaded various other HR policy-related updates since the mayor took office, including opening City Hall’s first gender-inclusive restroom last June and offering employees a new comprehensive paid parental leave policy.

Bibb was young when he won office at age 34 as the city’s first millennial mayor. Last May, he moved to expunge low-level cannabis convictions

“I talked to so many residents who couldn’t get a job, who couldn’t get access to a student loan, who couldn’t get access to qualify for housing because they had collateral sanctions on their record, many of which stem from low-level marijuana convictions,” Bibb said.

Grants to cover filing fees and expungement clinics are rolling out to make expungements possible. “We knew we were going to face some uphill battles in the legal system,” he said.

Bibb also advocated for Senate Bill 288, which was signed into law by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine last January. The bill helps enable the city of Cleveland to provide expungements by removing barriers that previously hindered Bibb’s attempts to expunge records even earlier.  

“We try to fight on behalf of our residents,” Bibb said.

The Bibb administration also worked to notify eligible people with cannabis conviction records. After that, the city filed motions on behalf of those people using a $10,000 grant to help pay for filing fees related to expungement and the sealing of records. The city is working with organizations to host expungement clinics where people can file and close their cases, without going to court. 

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