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New York City Lawmakers Ban Pre-Employment Drug Testing for Marijuana

A woman is smoking a cigarette in a park.

​Many employers in New York City will no longer be able to test job applicants for marijuana or THC—the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis—under a rule that was just adopted in the Big Apple. The new mandate will take effect in 2020.

"Prospective employers don't test for alcohol, so marijuana should be no different. But in no way does this bill justify individuals going to work under the influence," said Jumaane Williams, New York City's public advocate and the legislation's sponsor. 

We've rounded up the latest news on this topic. Here are SHRM Online resources and news articles from other trusted media outlets.

Exceptions for Certain Jobs Apply

Covered employers in New York City should review and revise their drug-testing policies and procedures to ensure compliance. But employers should note that there are numerous exceptions to the ban on pre-employment testing for marijuana. Applicants for the following positions can still be tested: construction workers; police officers; commercial drivers; teachers, teachers' aides or day care center employees; any job that requires the supervision or care of patients in a medical, nursing home or group care facility; and any job that has the potential to significantly impact the health or safety of employees or members of the public. Applicants may also be tested for weed if such testing is required by the U.S. Department of Transportation, federal contracts or grants, federal or state statutes, or collective bargaining agreements.

(National Law Review)

Testing for Other Drug Use

Employers in New York City that want to continue drug testing will need to reach out to vendors and see if they can provide testing for drugs other than marijuana at the pre-employment stage. Employers typically don't test only for marijuana but for a range of drugs, such as opiates, cocaine, amphetamines and marijuana.

(SHRM Online)

More Workers Are Testing Positive

More U.S. workers are testing positive for marijuana, according to the annual Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index. The number of workers and job applicants who tested positive for marijuana climbed 10 percent last year to 2.3 percent. Positive test results for urine testing of marijuana, the most common type of testing done, continue to rise both for the general U.S. workforce and in regulated, safety-sensitive industries. Positive test results rose 8 percent for the general workforce to 2.8 percent and increased 5 percent for those in safety-sensitive jobs to 0.88 percent.

(SHRM Online)

The State of Marijuana Laws

While marijuana use remains illegal at the federal level, 33 states have legalized medical marijuana use, and 10 states have also legalized recreational use. Some state statutes or court decisions protect employees who use medical marijuana under state disability laws; others do not afford employment protections. Regardless, a positive marijuana test will not indicate if the marijuana use happened on or off duty. So employers may want to treat marijuana in the workplace like they treat alcohol by focusing on safety and testing when there is a reasonable suspicion of workplace impairment.

(SHRM Online)

The ABCs of THC: What Employers Need to Know

From federal law to various state laws, from medical to recreational to low-THC product use, navigating the marijuana-legalization landscape is complicated. Here's what employers need to know.

(SHRM Online)


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.