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Lawmakers In Virginia Capital Vote To End Marijuana Testing Of City Workers

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The Richmond, Virginia City Council has approved a resolution that requests the city stop testing certain workers for marijuana as a condition of their employment.

Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch (D) introduced the measure, which she said would help align the body with the state legislature, which passed a bill to decriminalize possession of cannabis this session.

“As a forward-looking and progressive city, we need to adapt and change with the times, as policy has,” Lynch told Virginia Public Media. “In an environment where we are in such shortage of good employees, in my mind, it doesn’t make sense to be terminating folks just for failing a marijuana test.”

The resolution advanced out of the Council’s Education and Human Services Standing Committee last week and the full panel approved it as part of the consent agenda without debate on Monday.

Text of the measure states that the “Council hereby requests that the Mayor amend the Administrative Regulations of the City, to the extent permitted by law, to exclude from substance detection testing the testing of City employees and applicants for employment with the City, except for public safety personnel and applicants for public safety positions, for marijuana use.”

While the resolution doesn’t specify what safety-sensitive positions will still be subject to drug testing, local media reports that police and firefighters would be exempt from the policy change. Mayor Levar Stoney (D) supports the goals of the measure, a spokesman said.

The resolution also emphasizes that the proposal is in response to lawmakers passing decriminalization legislation on the state level. The governor approved the bill last month, but he also recommended a series of amendments. Most of those were approved, but because they rejected two, it is being returned to his desk for a final signature or veto. The bill also contains a provision requiring a working group to study and make recommendations about broader adult-use marijuana legalization.

“We applaud Councilwoman Lynch for prioritizing this issue and Mayor Stoney for supporting it,” Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of the Richmond-based Virginia NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “Virginia’s first medical dispensaries will open this year, and the Commonwealth is in the process of studying a regulatory framework for adult-use.”

“Now is the time for municipalities throughout the state to review and update their policies so they may better align with state law and public opinion,” they said.

There was some opposition to the measure, including from Council Vice President Chris Hilbert who argued that the policy conflicts with the city charter, which requires councilmembers and the mayor to resign from office if they’re convicted of possessing marijuana.

“I’m worried that we have one standard for employees and another for the officers and members of the governing body of the city,” he said.

Regardless, Hilbert joined his colleagues in unanimously approving the resolution.

Stoney said that he will be forming a working group to implement the requested policy.

This development comes days after legislation banning pre-employment drug testing for cannabis went into effect in New York City.

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Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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