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Philadelphia Bans Marijuana Drug Tests for Employment Screening (with Exceptions)

The city joins a number of others loosening restrictions on cannabis use. But not everyone is off the hook.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you're applying for a job in Philadelphia in 2022, you don't need to worry about the weed you smoked over the weekend. 

A new law going into effect next year prohibits any business from making the passage of a marijuana drug test a pre-condition for employment. The decision by the Philadelphia City Council and Mayor Jim Kenney made the City of Brotherly Love one of a handful of governments to put such a law on the books. New York City and Nevada have similar laws, as does Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Maine.

But there are exceptions. So every job seeker in Philadelphia and business owner should become familiar with the details of the law.

New Philadelphia law

Philadelphia City Councilmember Derek Green, who filed the bill that led to the new law, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that it's a step in the right direction.

"We're using pre-employment 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. That seems very contradictory," said Green.

Related: Biden Fired A Bunch of Staffers for Smoking Weed, and People Aren't Happy About It

The new law prohibits employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies in the city of Philadelphia "from requiring prospective employees to undergo testing for the presence of marijuana as a condition of employment, under certain terms and conditions." 


But there are quite a few exemptions to the law. They include the following jobs or professions:

  • Police officers or other law enforcement positions
  • Jobs that require a commercial driver's license
  • Any job that requires supervision or care of children, medical patients, the disabled, or other vulnerable individuals
  • Any job where the employee can significantly impact the health or safety of other employees or members of the public

And that's not all. Potential employees could still get tested for cannabis use if they apply for a job where drug testing is required by:

  • Federal or state statute, regulation, or order
  • A contract with or grant from the federal government that requires drug testing of prospective employees as a condition of receiving the contract or grant
  • A valid collective bargaining agreement between employer and employees that addresses pre-employment drug testing of job applicants

Related: The NBA Is Done Testing Players for Marijuana. At Least for Now.

What does this mean for employers?

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) wrote about how the law will impact HR directors within the city of Philadelphia. Attorney Louis Chodoff of Ballard Spahr in Mount Laurel, N.J., told SHRM that the law might not have that much of an impact on a practical level.

"The Philadelphia ordinance might not affect many businesses as employers have gradually moved away from pre-employment testing, and the exemptions to the ordinance cover a number of employers and industries where testing is required and standard," Chodoff said. "However, employers would be wise to review their drug-testing policies and protocols to ensure compliance with this ordinance."

SHRM noted that there is no evidence that using marijuana during the off hours impacts on-the-job performance. A recent study from a group of economists used data to show that cannabis does not impact productivity and may reduce workers' compensation claims.

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