Philadelphia Could Outlaw Pre-Employment Cannabis Screenings

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In a bold move for cannabis acceptance, the City Council of Philadelphia is set to vote on a measure that would make it illegal for companies to pre-screen prospective employees for cannabis use. 

If this bill passes, it is expected to be backed by Mayor Jim Kenney, who has shown support of cannabis decriminalization. The bill advanced out of a Council committee this week, and if passed, would go into effect on January 1 of 2022.

The newly presented bill, which is sponsored by Councilman Derek Green, would exclude those applying to be police officers; anyone wanting to work in law enforcement; all positions requiring a commercial driver’s license; and jobs that involve working with children, folks with disabilities, or patients receiving medical care. It would also not apply to anyone with a federal job or contract.

It would also exclude any job “in which the employee could significantly impact the health or safety of other employees or members of the public,” which could end up expanding to include many lines of work. However, a move like this would definitely offer more protections than the city’s residents see currently. 

Support For The Bill

In support of the measure, many cannabis users and advocates showed up at the City Council hearing to share their stories 

Thomas Jones, who has legally used medical marijuana to deal with autism spectrum disorder since 2018, said pre-employment drug screenings have prevented him from getting a job.

“I apply to jobs almost everyday,” said local resident Thomas Jones, who legally uses cannabis to help deal with autism spectrum disorder. “The roadblock comes when they do a drug test.”

He also said that when he shows his medical card to employers to explain that he will in fact test positive for cannabis, “they don’t know how to handle it.” They usually tell him to find another job.

While Pennsylvania still doesn’t have a legal, recreational cannabis system in place, many feel that such a move can’t be too far away, especially now that neighboring states New York and New Jersey have taken the plunge. 

Randy Duque, acting executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, the organization that will be enforcing the new rule, supports it because he feels that the city will benefit from this “comprehensive guidance.”

If the bill is approved, on a case-by-case basis, the commission will “carefully consider other occupations that are necessary and relevant to exemption as regulations are developed and promulgated” in order to determine which jobs qualify and which do not. 

“There’s no evidence to support the claim that those who consume cannabis in the privacy of their own home away from the job pose a unique workforce safety threat or risk,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He claims that some states and cities have already banned this type of drug testing, especially areas where cannabis is legal. 

If this bill becomes a reality for folks in Philadelphia, they will be one step ahead when state, and hopefully federal, legalization comes to pass.

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