NYC Bans Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing

Prospective Employers in NYC Now Unable to Ask For Cannabis Drug Tests – With Certain Exemptions

For the longest time, marijuana testing has made it tricky for cannabis users to obtain and hold onto employment. But now, cannabis users in the Big Apple have something to be grateful for: pre-employment marijuana testing is nearly gone.


This decision was approved by New York City Council in 2019, but it finally came into effect this summer. Legally, the decision was interesting – Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would put his signature on the legislation, but did not, and it passed anyway.

The bill had been long awaited by cannabis advocates, who have been fighting against the idea that marijuana consumption can affect a worker’s output.

DeVaughn Ward of the senior legislative counsel at Marijuana Policy Project wrote the following in a written testimony to the commission overseeing the bill:

“Science has proven that cannabis can stay in one’s system up to a month after consumption. This means a positive test for marijuana does not prove one is impaired while at work. MPP urges the Commission to reconsider the proposed rule and narrowly tailor the exceptions to those expressly required by [the legislation].”

So, What Is The Bill?


Titled “Prohibition of drug testing for pre-employment hiring procedures,” the bill proposed that it would “prohibit New York City employers from requiring 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.”

Unfortunately, though, the bill notes that not all jobs will be covered:

“Exceptions are provided for safety and security sensitive jobs, and those tied to a federal or state contract or grant.”

The list of jobs that may still require testing for marijuana has not been finalized. An initial proposal issued by the New York City Commission on Human Rights suggested these jobs would include those involving heavy machinery, lengthy shiftwork at construction sites, working with power and gas utility lines, and those using a motor vehicle on a daily basis.

The decision to remove pre-employment marijuana testing has brought joy to many cannabis activists, but some believe more work needs to be done.

Ward wrote in the aforementioned statement:

“[Marijuana Policy Project] understands that the City Council decided to exclude safety sensitive positions. However, MPP believes the proposed rule goes [beyond] what is required by [the bill].” He then added: “We are particularly concerned by the inclusion of a limitation for anyone who drives daily, which would impact large number of working-class New York City residents.”

Meanwhile, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams has expressed that there should be no exceptions to the law. Williams had sponsored the legislation that led to the city’s decision.

“Creating more exemptions and loopholes to this law will unjustifiably deter qualified employees from obtaining gainful employment,” he said in a written statement. “Maintaining the original intent of the legislation, the City should be pushing to reduce the stigma around marijuana and working to restore justice for the millions of black and brown communities who have been the victims of marijuana criminalization and discrimination.”