NYC Council Passes Bill to Ban Testing Prospective Employees for Cannabis

This bill could help those looking for a job breathe a little bit easier. But will the mayor sign it?
NYC Council Passes Bill to Ban Testing Prospective Employees for Cannabis

The New York City Council passed a bill on Tuesday that would ban companies in the city from requiring prospective employees to submit to drug screenings for cannabis. The measure is an attempt by the council to reduce the consequences of using marijuana.

Last month, the council passed a resolution calling on the state government to move ahead with the legalization of cannabis. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the sponsor of the bill passed on Tuesday, said that as that happens the government should work to make it easier for people to find jobs.

“We need to be creating more access points for employment, not less,” said Williams. “And as we move toward legalization, it makes absolutely no sense that we’re keeping people from finding jobs or advancing their careers because of marijuana use.”

Many occupations are excluded from the bill, leaving employers for those positions free to continue cannabis screening tests for applicants. Jobs related to security or which under city regulations have a significant impact on health and safety or positions connected to state or federal government contracts are excluded from the bill. Other exceptions include hiring for police officers, commercial drivers, and those who provide care for children, medical patients, and people with disabilities.

Applicants for jobs covered by collective bargaining agreements that allow for drug screening would also not be covered by the bill. An exception for all workers on construction sites, rather than only the operators of heavy equipment as originally proposed, was included in the bill after council members heard testimony from representatives of construction contractor organizations.

The bill was passed by the council with a vote of 41-4 now heads to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his consideration. If he decides to approve the measure, the provisions of the bill will go into effect one year after he signs it.

Separate Bill Would End Cannabis Screenings for Parolees

The New York City Council is also considering ending drug screenings for cannabis for parolees. On Monday, the Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to support the measure. Committee chair Donovan Richards said that nearly 300 people on probation in New York were put back behind bars last year simply for a marijuana violation.

“Remember, these are people who are otherwise not violating their probation conditions,” Richards said. “That means they are working or seeking work, avoiding police contact and following all the conditions set-out for them by their probation officers. These are people who don’t need marijuana testing to keep them on a straight path.”

Richards says five former city probation commissioners and former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman all have agreed that testing parolees for marijuana does not serve any useful purpose, according to a report in local media.

“The passage of this bill would help close one trapdoor that too many people have fallen into while working to lead a better life for themselves and their families,” Richards said.

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