NYC set to ban employers from requiring drug tests from job candidates

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A bill approved by New York City Council would ban employers from requiring employees to undergo a drug test as part of the hiring process.

The bill was passed on Tuesday in a 41-4 vote as part of larger city initiative of trying to reduce the legal repercussions associated with using marijuana. Police in the city and in surrounding jurisdictions have cut down significantly on marijuana-related arrests and council also recently passed a resolution asking the state to legalize recreational cannabis.

“We need to be creating more access points for employment, not less,” said Public Advocate and the bill’s sponsor Jamaane 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.”

Williams added that cannabis would be put on a similar level as alcohol, which doesn’t exclude people from employment.

“This is not permissions to come to work high, it is not permissions to come to work impaired, but we are not speaking about that,” said Williams. “We are speaking about people who are prevented from going to work in the first place.”

There are some exceptions to the bill; police and law-enforcement jobs, childcare positions and positions requiring a commercial driver’s license could still be required to take a drug test as a condition of being hired. Jobs related to state or federal contracts could also be subject to drug testing. Williams said that he hopes those exceptions will not be exceptions in the future.

“If you ingest weed in whatever manner a month ago, I’m not sure how that prevents you from doing your job now,” Williams said.  

Many people in the city and across the state are glad to see these progressive changes in marijuana regulations but are still pushing for lawmakers in New York to legalize cannabis completely.

According to a policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance Dionna King, drug testing “does little to determine how a particular person would perform in their job. It’s just a way to eliminate people based on actions done in private that don’t really affect how they will show up as day-to-day employees.”

The bill still requires the signature of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is already said to completely support the bill. Once signed, the law would take effect next year.

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