The Pennsylvania city of Philadelphia is the first to ban labs that conduct pre-hire marijuana testing, with other cities likely following suit. This move has major implications for workers in the cannabis industry, who have not yet been able to gain legal protections.

The “Philadelphia’s ban on pre-hire marijuana testing” is a recent event that has been taking place. The city council voted to prohibit companies from conducting drug tests of potential employees prior to hiring them. Read more in detail here: no drug test jobs.

What to know about Philadelphia’s ban on pre-hire marijuana testing



Many businesses are prohibited from testing job candidates for cannabis usage under a new municipal rule, but there are a few exceptions.

If you’re searching for work in Philadelphia, you may not need to pass a marijuana drug test. Many companies are prohibited from checking job seekers for cannabis usage under a new municipal rule. It went into effect on January 1st.

However, there are a number of exceptions to the rule, as well as concerns regarding enforcement. Here’s what you need to know about the city’s restriction on pre-hire marijuana testing whether you’re a job candidate or a hiring manager.

Why did the city enact this legislation?

Although medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania, some individuals who are given it have difficulty finding work due to drug tests. After learning about persons with autism spectrum disorder who failed to obtain job owing to their medicinal marijuana usage, City Councilmember Derek Green presented the measure.

Green, a Democrat, said, “It simply seemed incongruous that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is permitting this substance to be utilized for persons to assist enhance their quality of life.”

“However, this limits their potential to better their lives by obtaining productive job.”

The measure was adopted by Council 15-1 in April, with Republican David Oh giving the lone dissenting vote. Six days later, Mayor Jim Kenney signed the measure into law.


Is it still possible for my present job to test me for marijuana use?

Yes. Only pre-employment drug tests are covered under the ordinance. Employers are not required to amend their existing workplace drug policy as a result of the legislation, thus your present employer may continue to test you for cannabis usage.

“What this means is that they can’t require you to do a drug test, which is a major look into your health and body fluids, merely to apply for a job,” Chris Goldstein, regional organizer for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said.

Is it still possible for companies to test me for other drugs?

Yes. Because the rule only pertains to marijuana testing, you may still be required to undergo a drug test for other drugs before being employed.

Is there anybody who is excluded from the legislation, either workers or employers?

Yes. Employers may still test you for marijuana usage as a condition of employment if you work in law enforcement, require a commercial driver’s license, or manage minors, medical patients, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable groups.

There’s also a larger category for “any employment in which the employee’s health or safety might have a major influence on other workers or members of the public.” According to the law, a municipal agency would assess if a job fits those requirements.

According to William Roark, who heads the medicinal marijuana practice at the Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin law firm in Lansdale, the phrase provides some murky area that will likely be examined in court. Utility personnel who drive trucks and fix gas leaks, for example, “certainly” fit under that health and safety category, according to Roark. However, he noted, it’s unclear whether a utility can evaluate job seekers who wish to answer phones when consumers call to report gas leaks.

“There are very likely going to be certain circumstances where an employer says, ‘I believe this involves public health and safety, therefore I want to screen my staff,’ and an employee challenges that,” he added.

Is there a list of additional exceptions?

Yes. Employers that have a collective bargaining agreement that expressly covers pre-employment drug testing are exempt from the statute. Jobs that need drug testing for safety or security reasons under federal or state law are also excluded. Employers that must perform drug testing in order to win government contracts or funding are also exempt.

Is it possible for my company to be punished for testing job hopefuls for marijuana?

Yes. Green said that although the statute does not mention fines, it comes under a portion of Philadelphia code that controls enterprises. First-time violators might face fines ranging from $150 to $300, with higher penalties for repeat offenders, he added.

Who will be in charge of enforcing the law?

It’s still a mystery. The ordinance doesn’t say which municipal department would enforce it, and a representative for the mayor’s office did not reply to a request for comment right away. Green thinks it will be the city’s Labor Department, which is responsible for resolving labor issues and enforcing labor laws.

Are employers in New Jersey or Pennsylvania affected?

No, the rule only applies to employers in Philadelphia, which is one of just a few cities in the country to do so, along with New York and Nevada.

Employers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which do not have such laws, may still test potential workers for marijuana, according to Ryan Allen Hancock, an employment lawyer with the Philadelphia firm Willig, Williams & Davidson. Employers are not obliged to test for marijuana usage in any state, however testing may be necessary to get some professional licenses, according to Hancock.

“As more towns, cities, and states legalize marijuana, whether recreationally or medically, I expect more municipalities, cities, and governments to reassess their employment rules,” Hancock said.

According to Louis L. Chodoff of Ballard Spahr, in New Jersey, which legalized recreational marijuana, businesses cannot refuse to hire, dismiss, or reprimand an employee or candidate just because they tested positive for marijuana. Nonetheless, he continued, state law expressly supports an employer’s authority to maintain a drug-free workplace and to enforce laws barring marijuana usage during working hours.

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