Small Step for Cannabis: NYPD and NYFD Will No Longer Test Workers for Marijuana

ny pd

A New York City legal directive has been announced ordering the New York City Fire Department and New York City Police Department to no longer conduct random drug testing for marijuana on workers. The directive also maintains the provision that though random drug testing will no longer be allowed, testing if a worker appears intoxicated will still be a part of their processes. Though it seems unclear whether those changes will take place, or be accepted by the departments. 

The announcement came after the original memo referencing the department’s decision was leaked by an unknown source, prompting the Uniformed Firefighters association to release a statement in regards to the upcoming changes to department policy. According to the statement, the UFA is urging individual members to “wait until the Department announces official changes before considering any legal recreational or medicinal use,” but admits that the changes will be implemented in the next two weeks. 

Unlike the NYFD, the NYPD seems to have gone back and forth on the decision rather quickly. While initially responding to the announcement by sending interdepartmental memos discussing the upcoming policy changes, hours later a statement was released with the NYPD stating that no changes had yet been made, and the department would be consulting with the city about “potential federal conflicts” the decision could cause. 

The directive to change the policy for drug testing within the organizations, per the UFA, is a direct result of firefighter’s union consistently inquiring the city to re-think the current policies in regards to cannabis, especially in light of New York’s marijuana legalization law. 

It was in April of 2021 that the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act went into effect, which amended the New York State Labor Law. That amendment prohibited employers from adverse employment actions “based on recreational and medicinal cannabis use.” In simpler terms, employers would no longer be able to fire or penalize someone for cannabis use. Which came on the heels of the pre-legalization decree stating that employers could no longer pre-screen employees for cannabis consumption. 

There have been a laundry list of changes in New York that have taken leaps and bounds from how it once felt about – and enforced – cannabis. There was a time when NYC was a place where you could get fined, or depending on how the cop was feeling, arrested for smoking a spliff on the street. One year ago, NYPD issued updated guidelines to officers indicating that they would no longer be allowed to arrest anyone over the age of 21 who are smoking cannabis in places where tobacco is allowed. 

One small step for cannabis, one giant leap for the decriminalizing of nature. 

[img source: Photo by Alec Favale on Unsplash

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Chicana journalist, editor, educator, and organizer in Sacramento whose sole focus is to shed light on stories on our most impacted and marginalized communities, but even more importantly, for those stories to humanize those normally left out. She is an Ida B Wells Investigative Journalism Fellow 2022 Finalist, a member of the Parenting Journalists Society, and has bylines in The Courier, The Sacramento Bee, The Americano, Submerge Magazine among others.

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