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What is the legal status of marijuana in NY? In NY we have a drug-free workplace and require employees to undergo pre-employment drug testing. Can we elect to not hire an applicant who tests positive for marijuana because of a positive test?

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New York’s Compassionate Care Act (N.Y. Pub. Health Law §§ 3360 – 3369-e) permits limited use of medical marijuana by individuals suffering from covered medical conditions. Certified patients permitted to use medical marijuana are considered to be “disabled” under the state’s human rights laws. However, the law does not:

  1. Prevent employers from enforcing policies that prohibit employees from performing their job duties while impaired by a controlled substance.
  2. Require employers to take actions that would violate federal law or cause them to lose federal contracts or funding.
  3. Require health insurance plans to provide coverage for medical marijuana.
  4. Require employers to accommodate the use of medical marijuana in workplaces.

New York City: Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing Banned

Effective May 10, 2020, a New York City Charter Rule (Int. 1445-2019) prohibits New York City employers from conducting pre-employment drug testing of prospective employees for marijuana. Under the law, it is an unlawful discriminatory practice for a New York City employer, labor organization, employment agency, or agent thereof (employer) to require a prospective employee to submit to testing for the presence of any tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) or marijuana in his or her system as a condition of employment.

However, this prohibition does not apply to those applying to work:

  1. As police officers or peace officers, or any law enforcement or investigative function.
  2. As construction or demolition workers.
  3. As commercial drivers.
  4. In any position requiring the supervision or care of children, medical patients, or vulnerable persons.
  5. In any position with the potential to significantly impact the health or safety of employees or members of the public.

Additionally, the law does not apply to drug testing required pursuant to:

  1. Any regulation promulgated by the federal Department of Transportation that requires testing of a prospective employee.
  2. Any contract entered into between the federal government and an employer or any grant of financial assistance from the federal government to an employer that requires drug testing of prospective employees as a condition of receiving the contract or grant.
  3. Any federal or state statute, regulation, or order that requires drug testing of prospective employees for purposes of safety or security.
  4. Any applicants whose prospective employer is a party to a valid collective bargaining agreement that specifically addresses the pre-employment drug testing of such applicants.

The New York City Human Rights Commission will create the rules for implementation of this law.

(May 29, 2019)