On the cusp of legalization, New York employers scrap cannabis-testing rules for workers

Fortunately for pot-consuming employees, back in April, the New York City council pushed forward with a chunk of legislation to lift harsh restrictions ahead of recreational legalization


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

As New York inches closer to legalizing recreational cannabis, employers are contemplating rewriting their drug testing policies.

With a CBS News poll revealing how 65 percent of New York voters support cannabis legalization, a large proportion of employees working for companies across the Democratic state will surely want to relish in the adult-use market once it eventually blossoms. Employees are preparing for the plant’s debut into the recreational market – which looked set for springtime but stalled after lawmakers failed to include legalization in the April budget – by putting an end to random cannabis-testing in the workplace.

Cannabis testing policies are being rewritten by beverage giants in the Albany region

One of New York’s biggest beverages companies is based in the metropolis of Albany, where the unemployment rate was 3.2 percent in May. This is just 0.6 percent less than the unemployment rate was at the same time last year. Employers in the area, such as Saratoga Eagle Sales & Service, are considering rewriting cannabis testing policies in an attempt to attract more employees. Saratoga is a distributor of wines, spirits, non-alcoholic beverages and beers, including Budweiser and Stella Artois, for the Upstate New York region. The company is anticipating recreational cannabis legalization, which president Jeff Vukelic believes is imminent.

“We are struggling to find people who want to work,” Vukelic said. “And everything we are hearing is that [cannabis] is going to become legal. It is just a matter of when.”

It’s not just Vukelic’s company that is gearing up for a change in New York’s cannabis laws. C.J. DeCrescente is the president of Mechanicville-based company DeCrescente Distributing Co., where more than 400 people are employed and counting.  DeCrescente, whose company distributes 10 million cases of beverages on an annual basis, says that being prepared is essential for keeping unemployment rates down.

“You have health care professionals and politicians saying it’s going to be legalized,” DeCrescente said. “It is going to be the way of the world. We are not trying to be progressive. We are just trying to prepare for it.”

Previously, companies like Saratoga and DeCrescente would have conducted random drug testing on employees, many of whom would have had to undergo cannabis screening prior to gaining employment at either company. Now, both have now stopped testing for cannabis. They will, however, continue testing for opiates. Nonetheless, anyone who is suspected of using cannabis with reasonable proof will still be obliged to undergo drug testing by both companies.

Cannabis bill passed by lawmakers prevents most employees from drug testing

Cannabis testing policies are deterring job applicants in New York. The State’s unemployment rate rested at 3.9 percent in April 2019; unchanged from the month prior. Stagnancy in the state’s labor statistics could be attributed somewhat to strict drug testing policies being employed by statewide employers. Fortunately for pot-consuming employees, back in April, the New York City council pushed forward with a chunk of legislation to lift harsh restrictions ahead of recreational legalization. While legislation is still being hashed out by lawmakers who hope it will be approved in the near future, the majority of the state’s employers are not legally allowed to drug test employees for weed due to the passing of proposed bill, Int. 1445-A (“Bill”), which passed with a 41-4 vote.