Supporters of criminal justice reform will be excited to hear that the New York City (NYC) Council has recently passed a bill to ban mandatory cannabis drug testing for people on probation. Just last week, the NYC Council voted to end mandatory employment drug testing for cannabis.

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The Council held a hearing on Monday to discuss the issue, and the following day, council members voted in favor of passing the legislation to end mandatory probation and parole drug testing for marijuana.

The bill, Int 1427-2019, is titled, “Drug testing not permitted by the department of probation.” According to a summary of the proposed changes, “This law would ban the Department of Probation from conducting drug tests for marijuana.”

Six members of the NYC Council were absent from voting that day. Of those who were present, 40 voted in favor of the bill’s passage, with only 4 dissenting.

View of New York City Hall and Manhattan Municipal Building in lower Manhattan, New York City, USA iStock / Mark Zhu

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Awaiting The Mayor's Decision

The legislation to end mandatory cannabis drug testing for New York City residents on either probation or parole was introduced back in February of this year by local NYC Councilman Donavan Richards, chair of the city’s public safety committee and one of bill’s main proponents.

In a recent interview with HighTimes, said Councilman Richards,

“We all know that there’s no public safety value in violating people over low-level marijuana offenses. Especially today when the state has already legalized medical marijuana and is talking about legalizing recreational use.”

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Calling probation drug tests “[a] trap door that trips people up,” Richards expressed his intentions with the bill, saying, “We’re trying to build stable communities.”

Going on, Richards said, “Remember, these are people who are otherwise not violating their probation conditions. That means they are working or seeking work, avoiding police contact and following all the conditions set-out for them by their probation officers. These are people who don’t need marijuana testing to keep them on a straight path.”

The bill now awaits the mayor’s signature before becoming law.

The State Of Cannabis in New York

Close up of marijuana - herbal cannabis iStock / Eva-Foreman

Medical marijuana has been legal in NYC and across the state of New York since 2014. Lawmakers are currently considering statewide legalization of recreational cannabis as well.

Proponents of cannabis legalization had hoped that a state congressional vote on recreational marijuana would happen before April 1st.

In an interview with WCNY radio back in February, said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, “We’ll work very hard to get it done. In this business, six weeks is a lot of time. If we can’t do it right, then we’ll do it later.”

Unfortunately, Gov. Cuomo may have spoken too soon - legalization of recreational cannabis for New Yorkers could be delayed until 2020.

Only a month later, in March, Governor Cuomo expressed that he was “no longer confident” that recreational cannabis legalization would be included in the final version of the state budget. Gov. Cuomo went on to comment, “There is a wide divide on marijuana. I believe ultimately, we can get there. I believe we must get there. I don’t believe we get there in two weeks.”