NYC Council Bans Employers from Testing Job Applicants for Cannabis

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

The new bills prohibit companies from using drug tests for cannabis as a condition of employment.

Though its cannabis legalization efforts have recently stalled out, a pair of bills overwhelmingly approved by New York City Council is changing the city's protocol in screening for the drug.

According to The New York Timestwo measures were passed by the council; one that bans employers from testing job applicants for cannabis, another that prohibits the city from testing people on probation. The bills apply to both public and private companies, as well as those that are not headquartered within the city. Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged his full support and is expected to sign the bills imminently.

The bills aim to level the employment playing field and are the first of their kind in the country, even in states where cannabis has been legalized for recreational use. The same report notes that Maine, where voters chose to legalize in 2018, prohibited employers from discriminating against those who have used the drug, but never went so far as to regulate the process of testing for the substance.

In last year's election campaign, Gov. Andrew Cuomo shifted towards a weed-friendly stance when his opponent, Cynthia Nixon, held his feet to the fire after years of dragging on the question of legalization. This year, Cuomo became a hard-line advocate of the transition and even pushed for a measure in the state budget, but was opposed by black lawmakers that would not sign on unless their communities were guaranteed an equal stake in the potentially massive new industry.

Jumaane D. Williams, NYC public advocate (and sponsor of the employer-regulating bill,) notes the legalization freeze, but remains hopeful of an amicable resolution: “If we want to be a progressive city, we have to really put these things into action."

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