Many Philadelphia employers would be prohibited from testing new hires for marijuana use under legislation City Council approved Thursday.
The bill, by Councilmember Derek Green, makes it illegal for companies “to require a prospective employee to submit to testing for the presence of marijuana” before hiring them.
But it exempts many types of jobs, including law enforcement, employees who need a commercial driver’s license, many health-care workers, and a broad category that includes “any position in which the employee could significantly impact the health or safety of other employees or members of the public.” The bill also doesn’t prohibit employers of unionized workforces from testing for marijuana if employees agreed to testing in their collective bargaining contracts.
Council approved the bill in a 15-1 vote, with Republican David Oh casting the lone opposing vote. Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to sign it into law, and it would take effect Jan. 1.
Green, a Democrat, said he introduced the bill after learning that some people with autism spectrum disorder are prescribed marijuana for learning difficulties and then find it difficult to secure employment. Pennsylvania is one of 36 states with legalized medical marijuana use.
“We’re using preemployment testing for a product that is being recommended by physicians, for individuals within the city of Philadelphia, that’s authorized for them to be used,” said Green, a vocal advocate for people with autism. “That seems very contradictory.”
Some researchers have found that marijuana can reduce disruptive behavior and increase social responsiveness for people with autism, but other experts say more research is needed to determine whether medical marijuana is a useful treatment.
Recreational marijuana use remains illegal in Pennsylvania, but Philadelphia has decriminalized possession of small amounts.
Also Thursday, Council unanimously approved a $9.8 million budget transfer to further its New Normal Jobs Initiative, Council President Darrell L. Clarke’s plan for responding to the economic challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
The budget transfer bill moves the money out of Council’s budget and spreads it across various departments to fund jobs programs including WorkReady, which provides summer jobs for teens; the Community Life Improvement Program, which addresses quality-of-life issues in neighborhoods; Same Day Work and Pay, which hires people to clean vacant lots; and the Mural Arts Program.
Councilmember Kendra Brooks, who missed last week’s Council meeting because she was experiencing worsening COVID-19 symptoms, returned for this week’s virtual meeting and said she was feeling better.