Philadelphia is about to ban drug testing for weed before hiring
The Philadelphia City Council just approved a measure banning most companies from doing cannabis testing before hiring.
The council passed the measure expressly forbidding employers to oblige potential workers to check for the presence of marijuana as a condition of employment under certain conditions by 15-1 votes. Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to sign the bill. If so, it will take effect on January 1, 2022.
The new measure applies to most employers, but not to all. Law enforcement officers, vehicle drivers who require a commercial driver’s license, and many healthcare workers may still be asked to do weed checks before hiring. The bill also has a wide open category that allows employers to continue searching for “any position where the worker could materially affect the health or safety of other workers or the public,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Although weeds for adult use are still banned in Pennsylvania, the state has a comprehensive medical marijuana program with approximately 150,000 registered patients. Councilor Derek Green proposed the new drug control law after learning that some Philadelphians with Autism Spectrum Disorders have been denied work for federally legal medical cannabis use.
“We are using pre-employment testing for a physician-recommended product for people in the City of Philadelphia who are eligible to use it,” Green told the investigator. “That seems very contradictory.”
“Suspicious marijuana testing in the workplace, like pre-employment drug screening, is not an evidence-based policy now or ever,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano testified at a city council hearing earlier this month. “Rather, these discriminatory practices are a holdover from the ‘war on drugs’ zeitgeist of the 1980s. But the times have changed; Attitudes have changed, and in many places marijuana laws have changed. “
“There is no evidence to support the claim that those who consume cannabis in the privacy of their own home outside of the workplace pose a unique security threat or risk to the safety of the workforce,” continued Armentano. “The time has come for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and stop punishing employees for activities they do outside of business hours that do not pose a threat to workplace safety.”
Indeed, independent research studies have shown that workplace deaths have actually declined in states with legal medicinal pot and that off-hours cannabis use does not affect work performance in any way.
If the bill is passed, Philadelphia will join a growing list of cities and states that offer medical cannabis users protection in the workplace. Washington DC, Atlanta, and New York City recently banned pre-hiring marijuana screening for most jobs, and in 2018 Maine became the first US state to ban most employers from cannabis drug screening.