A new law in Philadelphia that keeps employers from making people take pre-hire cannabis tests goes into effect starting in January 2022. It’s an important law with nationwide ramifications as both employers and employees seek more clarity on drug testing and marijuana use.
Pennsylvania currently allows medical marijuana for certain conditions. However, the state does not allow adult-use recreational cannabis. But tests can’t tell the difference, leaving those who have recently used medical marijuana in jeopardy of not getting a job.
The new law bans pre-hire cannabis testing by any employer, labor organization or employment agency. Philadelphia City Councilmember Derek Green, who wrote the ordinance, told CBS Pittsburgh that the new law focuses on supporting medical marijuana users.
“Cannabis is a unique product. Unlike alcohol and others, it metabolizes in your system a lot differently…those who really need medical marijuana, especially to improve their quality of life, shouldn’t be restricted from getting a job because that’s what we all want to see,” Green said.
The New Law Has Important Exemptions
The new law has the attention of human resource professionals across the country. It’s one of the first of its kind. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently wrote about the law. While aimed at HR professionals, it also provides important information for those seeking jobs.
The new law does not apply to current employees. It does not keep employers in Philadelphia from testing those already working, and it also does not prohibit them from firing someone found using cannabis while on the job.
Also, the law does not apply to certain positions. They include applicants for:
- Police officer or other law enforcement positions
- Jobs that require a commercial driver’s license
- Jobs that involve supervision or care of children, medical patients, the disabled or other vulnerable individuals.
- Jobs where an employee can significantly impact the health or safety of other employees or members of the public
The law also does not apply to jobs with employers who must test for marijuana use under state or federal law, including businesses that contract with the federal government. It also does not apply to positions where a collective bargaining agreement specifically addresses pre-employment drug testing of applicants.
Studies Show Little Impact on Job Performance
For employers worried about off-hours marijuana use, studies have shown that use of cannabis has not impacted productivity in states where cannabis is legal. It may also have led to a lower number of worker compensation claims. Researchers attributed the lower claims to workers using cannabis for pain relief management.
For employers, the change will mean having to remove mention of cannabis testing from application paperwork. For potential employees, it means less fear about not getting a job because they have a medical marijuana prescription.
Atlanta, New York and Washington DC have taken similar steps to ban drug tests that can detect off-the-job marijuana use. Until the federal government legalizes cannabis nationwide, this patchwork approach will continue, making it important for cannabis users to understand the laws where they live, including the use of pre-hire cannabis testing by area businesses.