New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus has proposed a slew of new bills that would eliminate drug testing for cannabis. One bill, introduced by Progressive Caucus founder Jumaane Williams, would end workplace drug tests for THC as a condition of employment. In other words, employers would no longer be able to deny job opportunities to people who test positive for marijuana. With New York speeding toward adult-use legalization under Gov. Cuomo’s new budget, legislation that protects cannabis consumers from job discrimination—i.e., laws that make legal weed actually legal—is crucial, especially in a city with such a long track record of racist drug enforcement.
New York City Council Progressive Caucus Moves to Severely Restrict Workplace Drug Testing Requirements
In states that have some form of legal cannabis use, “no tolerance” workplace drug policies have been a constant source of controversy and of litigation. Across the country, medical cannabis patients have lost their jobs after testing positive for THC, even if they never used cannabis at work or came to work under the influence. Because byproducts of THC, the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis, can linger in the body long after its effects have worn off, employees can test positive for legal, off-the-clock activity.
In several key instances, ex-employees have won civil suits against their former employers. And in those judgements, a deciding factor has been the difficulty of proving impairment. A positive drug test result for THC is no indication that someone is under the influence of cannabis. But such litigation takes time, during which patients and cannabis consumers are without work and struggling to find jobs.
Hoping to get ahead of those problems before New York legalizes adult-use cannabis, Councilman Jumaane Williams has introduced a bill to bar employers from testing job applicants for THC. Williams bill would not apply to safety-sensitive jobs. So people who work in law enforcement, who drive or operating heavy machinery or anyone with a state or federal contract. But for everyone else, Williams’ bill would end drug testing job applicants for cannabis. “It doesn’t make sense that this would be something that would prevent someone from getting gainful employment,” Williams said.
Meet the Progressive NY Legislator Who Wrote the Bill to Ban Pre-Employment Drug Testing
In the photograph accompanying the New York Times Editorial Board’s September endorsement of City Councilman Jumaane Williams for Lieutenant Governor, Williams stares confidently into the camera. He’s dressed in t-shirt and blazer and the colorful buttons on his lapel read “Stay Woke” and “Is it Fascism Yet?” His look is every bit a piece with the district he represents in New York City Council, Brooklyn’s 45th. And since his election to Council in 2009, Williams has been a relentless advocate for progressive legislation.
Williams has served on Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings. He co-chaired the Council’s Task Force to Combat Gun Violence. A founding member of the Progressive Caucus, Williams is a member of the Black, Latino & Asian Caucus. He’s a first-generation Brooklynite of Grenadian heritage. As an elected representative, Williams has fought for affordable housing, anti-gun violence measures, fair policing, equity and social justice. In 2013, Williams’ Community Safety Act ushered in important changes to the NYPD, including independent oversight. The bill also made it easier for New Yorkers to file lawsuits against the NYPD for discrimination.