Marijuana Drug Tests: Employers Change Position

Employer Marijuana Rules
Medical marijuana patients have faced challenges due to unchanged company policies on cannabis use, despite the easing of restrictions in many states. However, a shift is occurring as state and local governments introduce legislation to prohibit pre-employment marijuana testing for certain roles. For instance, New York City and Rochester have passed laws making it illegal for companies to require new employees to take marijuana drug tests, with exceptions for safety-sensitive positions. Outside of New York, similar laws have been enacted in places like Richmond, Virginia, Maine, Nevada, and Washington, D.C., signaling a potential trend towards more inclusive workplace policies for medical marijuana users.
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A long-standing problem for medical marijuana patients across the nation is that while many states have loosened up restrictions on cannabis use, company policies on marijuana have remained mostly unchanged.

However, medical marijuana is here to stay, and so – as advocacy groups argue: employers will have to come around sooner or later. To help move things along, many state and local governments are now enacting legislation disallowing pre-employment marijuana testing for certain types of employees.

Cities With New Marijuana Testing Policies

Over the past year, governments have really begun picking up the pace when it comes to pre-employment marijuana screening.

For example, in New York, cities including Rochester and New York City have passed laws that make it illegal for companies to require new employees to take drug tests for marijuana.

Rochester, specifically, passed a law on May 12, 2020, which no longer requires city employees to take pre-employment marijuana drug screening tests, except when applying for safety-sensitive positions, such as commercial driving and police officer positions.

New York City’s new law is more encompassing and makes it illegal for all employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies to require potential new employees to submit to drug tests for marijuana. Exceptions were again made for safety-sensitive positions.

Outside of New York, lawmakers in Richmond, Virginia passed a similar law on April 22, 2020 which removes the requirement for non-safety sensitive employees to submit to pre-employment marijuana tests. Additionally, Virginia passed several other pro-medical marijuana laws that decriminalize marijuana possession and relax restrictions on medical marijuana access.

Other examples of local governments barring employers from excluding potential employees who fail marijuana drug tests include Maine, Nevada, and Washington, D.C.. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before pre-employment drug screening for marijuana is a thing of the past for all medical cannabis patients!

Florida Regulations

You’re probably still wondering where Florida stands in all of this. While Florida does allow patients to use medical marijuana, employers are not required to accommodate medical marijuana users at this time.

Specifically, Senate Bill 8A states:

This section does not limit the ability of an employer to establish, continue, or enforce a drug-free workplace program or policy.

This section does not require an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace or any employee working while under the influence of marijuana.

This section does not create a cause of action against an employer for wrongful discharge or discrimination.

When Florida medical marijuana patients run into problems due to marijuana drug testing policies, they often turn to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); however, this defense offers little help. According to Florida law firm Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, courts in several states have all come to the conclusion that while marijuana remains federally illegal, the ADA does little good.

Until Florida enacts legislation to stop employers from requiring pre-employment marijuana screening, it is advised that you read up on your job’s drug testing policies before starting employment and/or consult private legal counsel.

For a more in-depth discussion of medical marijuana employee rights, see:

Can I Use Medical Marijuana at Work in Florida?

Medical Marijuana: Employee Rights & Safety

Updated: July 27, 2023

Jeremy Campbell

Jeremy is a professional writer specializing in medical cannabis and alternative health reporting.


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