May 13, 2019
The Public Advocate speaks at the 2019 Cannabis Parade and Rally in Union Square.

NEW YORK, NY: A ban on pre-employment testing for marijuana usage has now become law in New York City. The legislation from  Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams was approved by the City Council on April 9th. It has officially been enacted after passing the 30-day deadline without action from the Mayor. This 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.

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 are provided for certain safety and security sensitive jobs, and those tied to a federal or state contract or grant

"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," said  Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. "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. While New York State deliberates and the federal government continues to prop up stigma and harmful policies, New York City must lead the way on this issue."

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 last year 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. 

Enactment of this legislation comes as the New York State legislature continues to debate legalization, with some reports indicating that the drug will not be legalized this year, even while polling indicates a majority of New Yorkers support the measure.

Public Advocate Williams has previously adopted resolutions calling for 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.

# # #