The New York City Council recently passed a bill that would prevent employers from including cannabis in any kind of drug testing as a condition for employment. Public Advocate Jamaane Williams (D), who sponsored the bill and presides over the council, sees it as both a move that would help unemployed New Yorkers find jobs and as a natural progression towards cannabis inevitably being legal in the Empire State.
“We need to be creating more access points for employment, not less. 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 said.
The bill passed by a 41-1 vote. Now that the bill has made its way through city council, it will go to the desk of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Should he approve it, the bill will take effect one year after he signs it.
The bill excludes various occupations, mostly ones that are directly involved with public health and safety or are under city regulations. Under the bill, state and federal government employees, law enforcement personnel, commercial drivers and most medical professionals would be excluded from the exception of being drug tested for cannabis. The bill initially included only construction workers who operate heavy or potentially dangerous machinery, but was revised to include all workers in that sector after the city council heard testimony from construction contractor organizational members and representatives.
A similar – yet more controversial – bill introduced by a city council committee would ban cannabis testing of parolees. The chairman of public safety, Donovan Richards, said that 271 parolees were incarcerated again because of what he believes is a minor infraction.
“Remember, these are people who are otherwise not violating their probation conditions. That means they are working or seeking work, avoiding police contact and following all the conditions set-out for them by their probation officers,” Richards said. “These are people who don’t need marijuana testing to keep them on a straight path.”
In March of this year, the city council moved forward with a resolution calling on state lawmakers to legalize and tax recreational cannabis use for adults 21 and older.
Even though recreational cannabis has not yet been passed in the state, New York legalization advocates should be encouraged by this relative progress in the advancement of cannabis freedom. Hopefully if it does pass, sensible legislation comes with it that reduces the dangers of black market sales.