Philadelphia: City Council Votes to Prohibit Pre-Employment Drug Screening for Cannabis

Drug Testing

Members of the Philadelphia City Council have voted overwhelmingly in favor of municipal legislation prohibiting certain employers from requiring prospective hires to pass a pre-employment drug screen.

Council members decided 15 to 1 in favor of the measure, Bill No. 200625, which “prohibits employers from requiring prospective employees to undergo testing for the presence of marijuana as a condition of employment, under certain terms and conditions.” Employees in certain safety sensitive positions, such as police officers and/or those who supervise children or medical patients, will be exempt from the policy, as will those mandated to be drug tested under federal drug testing guidelines. City Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to sign the bill into law. It would take effect on January 1, 2022.

NORML’s Deputy Director testified in favor of the bill at an April hearing before the council. “There’s no evidence to support the claim that those who consume cannabis in the privacy of their own home away from the job pose a unique workforce safety threat or risk,” he said.

He added: “Suspicionless marijuana testing in the workplace, such as pre-employment drug screening, is not now, nor has it ever been, an evidence-based policy. Rather, these discriminatory practices are a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s ‘war on drugs.’ But times have changed; attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed. It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat.”

The municipal measure is similar to other laws that have recently been enacted in the cities of Atlanta, New York, and Washington, DC limiting employers’ abilities to drug test certain employees for off-the-job marijuana exposure.

A study published in November in the journal Occupational Medicine of 136,000 employees in various occupations identified “no association between past-year cannabis use and work-related injury” for employees in any occupation, including those who worked in high injury risk occupations. Authors concluded: “To the best of our knowledge, this was the largest population-based cross-sectional study examining the association between past-year cannabis use and work-related injuries. … We found that workers reporting using cannabis more than once in the past year were no more likely to report having experienced a work-related injury over the same time period in a large cohort of the … working population

Additional information on marijuana and workplace drug testing policies is available from NORML here.

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