Philadelphia City Council Votes To Kill Pre-Employment Drug Screening for Cannabis


It’s a good day to be a cannabis user in Philadelphia, as it may soon be illegal within the city limits for some employees to undergo a mandatory pre-employment drug screening for cannabis use. This will be a major victory for medical patients looking for work.  

The Philadelphia City Council passed this new ruling with an overwhelming majority, at a rate of 15 in favor, one opposed. Republican David Oh was the only person who opposed the measure.

Bill No. 200625 now officially “prohibits employers from requiring prospective employees to undergo testing for the presence of marijuana as a condition of employment, under certain terms and conditions.”

Since the bill makes it illegal “to require a prospective employee to submit to testing for the presence of marijuana” before hiring them, folks who use cannabis medically in the state don’t have to worry that they are taken out of the job market. Additionally, it paves the way for recreational cannabis, as it also helps those who are recreationally smoking right now, even though that technically hasn’t been legalized.

Some folks, such as police officers, those who work with children or medical patients, and those with federal jobs, will not be exempt from pre-employment drug screening for cannabis. Mayor Jim Kenney still needs to sign the bill into law, and if he does, it will go into effect January 1 of next year. 

“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,” said Paul Armentano, NORML’s Deputy Director, who testified in favor of this bill. 

“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.”

“We’re using pre-employment testing for a product that is being recommended by physicians, for individuals within the city of Philadelphia, that’s authorized for them to be used,” said Councilmember Derek Green, who initially proposed the bill. “That seems very contradictory.”

Even More Reasons To Ban Pre-Employment Drug Screening for Cannabis

Green claimed he introduced the bill to end pre-employment drug screening for cannabis after learning that some people with autism use cannabis to help with learning difficulties and then are kept out of opportunities to land a job, even though they can medically use cannabis.

Similar laws have been passed in Atlanta, New York, and Washington, DC. All of these measures put a cap on when and how employees can screen for cannabis use. 

And research backs up making this move, as well. A study published in Occupational Medicine showed that there was “no association between past-year cannabis use and work-related injury” for employees in any occupation.

“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,” the study concluded.

While this measure does not cover all jobs and situations, and there is still a far way to go for cannabis equity and legalization in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, this is a strong step for Philly towards protecting medical cannabis patients and consumers in the workforce. 



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