The mayor of Kansas City, Missouri on Thursday introduced a proposed ordinance that would make it so applicants for most city government positions would not be drug tested for marijuana as a pre-employment condition.
Mayor Quinton Lucas (D) has been a notable advocate for reform. Last year, he filed a since-enacted measure to remove all local criminal penalties for cannabis possession.
This latest proposal would “prohibit the City from conducting pre-employment testing for marijuana,” with certain exemptions.
“It shall be unlawful for the City of Kansas City to require a prospective employee to submit to testing for the presence of marijuana in the prospective employee’s system as a condition of employment,” the text of the measure states.
Exceptions would be made for law enforcement, jobs requiring a commercial driver’s license or that involve supervision of “children, medical patients, disabled or other vulnerable individuals” and positions where the “employee could significantly impact the health or safety of other employees or members of the public, as determined by the City Manager and set forth in regulations pursuant to this Chapter.”
Kansas City government should not freeze qualified individuals out from government jobs due to marijuana usage, especially with medicinal marijuana legalized in Missouri and recreational marijuana legalized in surrounding states.https://t.co/pe3Q5D5oQB
— Mayor Quinton Lucas (@MayorLucasKC) July 22, 2021
“Kansas City government should not freeze qualified individuals out from government jobs due to marijuana usage, especially with medicinal marijuana legalized in Missouri and recreational marijuana legalized in surrounding states,” Lucas said in a Twitter post.
The proposed ordinance has been referred to the Special Committee for Legal Review.
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Last year, Lucas announced a pardon program for those with previous convictions for possession of marijuana or paraphernalia.
“Working to eliminate pre-employment marijuana testing from the City application process is one of several common-sense steps I’m proud my administration has taken to build an inclusive City workforce and ensure employment opportunities exist for more Kansas Citians—particularly for hourly workers who disproportionally come from Kansas City’s Black or brown communities,” the mayor said in a statement about the new move.
Drug testing for cannabis has become a hot topic of late since the Olympics suspension of U.S. runner Sha’Carri Richardson, with more people arguing that use of the plant shouldn’t lead to punishments, especially given the ongoing rise of the legalization movement.
For example, the Biden administration has come under fire this year for terminating or otherwise punishing staffers who were honest about their past cannabis use as part of the background check process.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said that nobody in the White House was fired for “marijuana usage from years ago,” nor has anyone been terminated “due to casual or infrequent use during the prior 12 months.” However, she’s consistently declined to speak to the extent to which staff have been suspended or placed in a remote work program because they were honest about their history with marijuana on a federal form that’s part of the background check process.
Last month, a powerful congressional committee released a report that urges federal agencies to reconsider policies that result in the firing of employees who use marijuana legally in accordance with state law.
Separate standalone legislation has been previously introduced by Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) to provide protections for federal workers who consume cannabis in compliance with state law, but it never received a hearing or a vote and has not been refiled so far this Congress.
As of last year, New York City employers are no longer able to require pre-employment drug testing for marijuana as a part of the hiring process—though there are a series of exemptions to the policy. The City Council approved the ban in 2019, and it was enacted without Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) signature.
Back in Missouri, a group of activists recently filed four separate initiatives to put marijuana reform on the state’s 2022 ballot, a move that comes as other advocacy groups are preparing separate efforts to collect signatures for cannabis ballot petitions of their own.
Meanwhile, still other activists are focusing on getting the legislature to pass a resolution to place the question of legalization before voters next year.
Lucas told Marijuana Moment last year that he’d “absolutely sign” a legalization initiative “because I think, you know, this is the way things should go and it’s going to be essential for us.”
Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.