Earlier this week, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) announced that it would stop conducting random cannabis testing for all officers and employees. But within hours, the department issued a second statement announcing that its previous zero-tolerance policy will remain in full effect.
The initial news about the policy change came from an internal memo that was leaked to the press on Wednesday. The memo explains that the New York City Law Department (NYCLD) recently instructed all city agencies, including the police and fire departments, to stop testing employees for THC. This decision was based upon a recent revision to the state labor law that prohibits employers from disciplining employees who use cannabis in their free time.
“This legal opinion directed all City agencies, including the NYPD, to stop pre-employment, random, and scheduled drug testing for marijuana,” the memo explains. “The rationale behind this determination is that there is no test for marijuana that conclusively determines current intoxication, making it impossible to determine by drug test alone whether an employee has tested positive for marijuana because of improper use on the job or use during statutorily protected off-hours use.”
The memo adds that the department would only be allowed to conduct a THC drug test if “there is reasonable suspicion that the member is impaired by marijuana on the job in such a manner that impacts their job duties.” Cannabis testing would also continue for employees with commercial drivers licenses, due to federal drug testing laws.
When pressed about the leak, NYPD officials released a statement confirming that the NYCLD had indeed directed them to “cease all random, scheduled and pre-employment testing for marihuana.” But before cops even had time to roll a celebratory joint, the department issued several new statements that completely contradicted the first.
In a new memo, NYPD Chief Keechant Sewell stated that "existing department policies that prohibit the use of marijuana remain in effect,” the Times Union reports. “Members of the service are not permitted to use cannabis on or off duty and will continue to be subject to random, scheduled, and for-cause drug screening."
“The NYPD has received a legal memorandum from the City’s Law Department regarding the implementation of the Marijuana and Taxation Act (MRTA) in New York State law,” a spokesperson told Marijuana Moment. “We are in consultation with the Law Department over conflicts with the new state law and pre-existing federal law. While these discussions continue, there is no change in NYPD policies, procedures, or testing protocols regarding the use of Marijuana by uniformed members of the service.”
Nearly every other adult-use state still allows police departments to continue enforcing zero-tolerance cannabis policies, even though cannabis tests cannot accurately determine whether or not an officer is impaired at the time of the test. But this April, New Jersey became the exception to this rule, banning all state and local departments from punishing officers for off-duty cannabis use. Garden State police departments will still be able to discipline cops who are caught getting high on duty, though.