By Michael Gold
Most employers in New York City would no longer be able to force job applicants to take drug tests for marijuana use, under a bill overwhelmingly approved this week by the City Council.
If the drug-screening law is enacted, it would put New York in relatively uncharted territory. Several drug policy and employment experts said that they did not know of similar laws on the books, even in states that have legalized marijuana.
In Maine, where voters approved legal recreational marijuana use, the law prevents employers from discriminating against people who have used cannabis, but it does not specifically regulate drug testing.
The Council’s bill would affect public and private employers in New York City, including companies with headquarters elsewhere, according to Jumaane D. Williams, the city’s public advocate and the bill’s sponsor. He said it was unclear exactly how many employers in the city screen employees for drugs and might be affected.
“I’m proud that the city has taken action where the federal and the state government have stalled,” Mr. Williams said on Thursday.
The legislation, which passed on Tuesday by a 40-to-4 vote, was the latest in a series of progressive steps that city officials have taken to ease cannabis restrictions as state lawmakers’ efforts to legalize marijuana have stalled.
In addition to Mr. Williams’s bill, the city also passed a bill that would stop the city from requiring marijuana testing for people on probation. Both bills are currently awaiting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature.
The mayor’s administration fully supports the employment bill, a spokeswoman for the mayor, Olivia Lapeyrolerie, said on Thursday. The employment screening bill would take effect one year after it is signed into law.
Not every employee would be exempt from drug testing if the bill becomes law. If workers appeared to be under the influence of marijuana at work, employers would still be permitted to drug test.