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NYPD Says It Will Stop Testing Cops for Weed, Then Reverses Course

On Wednesday, a memo from the New York Police Department was made public. It advised officers not to face cannabis drug testing. However, the department swiftly reversed its decision and stated that marijuana screenings would continue until the policy has been reviewed.

“The New York City Law Department has directed the NYPD to cease all random, scheduled and pre-employment testing for marijuana,” an NYPD spokeswoman said early Wednesday. “The Department will continue to administer marijuana screenings to personnel when there is indications of impairment and is reviewing its current policies in light of this directive.”

The memo from the Law Department, which was dated July 11, said that such screenings for marijuana are inconsistent with last year’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which bans repercussions on employees for off-duty recreational cannabis use. After receiving the directive from the city’s Law Department, the NYPD Commissioner for Legal Matters sent a memo to department heads to notify them of the policy change.

“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,” reads NYPD the memo.

“Therefore, starting immediately, the Department should only drug test a member of service for marijuana if there is reasonable suspicion that the member is impaired by marijuana on the job in such a manner that impacts their job duties or where there is a federal requirement mandating testing for marijuana use, such as title which requires a Commercial Driver License,” the NYPD memo continues.

News very quickly returned

A spokesperson for the NYPD said that representatives from the Law Department were speaking with police officers about possible conflicts between the federal policy and the NYPD’s. Implementing the policy is currently being held.

“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,” the spokesperson announced.

NYPD Chief Keechant Sewell subsequently issued a memo to all commanders noting that cops are still banned from smoking weed, writing that “existing department policies that prohibit the use of marijuana remain in effect. 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.”

Jennifer Cabrera, an attorney with the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg’s New York office, said that police officers should be free from drug screenings for cannabis.

“Officers of the NYPD should be free to consume cannabis in their free time just like any other resident of New York,” Cabrera wrote in an email to Chronic News. “Just as officers can enjoy a drink or visit a bar off duty, they should be able to responsibly enjoy cannabis.”

The FDNY Ends Pot Testing

The Law Department directive also apparently was issued to leaders at the New York City’s fire department. A representative from the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), the union that represents the city’s firefighters, said that its members would no longer be subject to drug testing for cannabis.

“The UFA has been informed that new Department guidelines are forthcoming regarding changes to the current FDNY drug testing policy,” the UFA said. “We have been informed that the Department will no longer randomly test members for marijuana use.”

The union also noted that firefighters were not allowed to reach high work places.

“Members are reminded that they must be fit for duty when they report to work, and members may still be subject to testing while at work if they appear unfit for duty,” the union said.

New York State Police spokesperson told reporters the agency did not change its policy. They would still test their officers for marijuana. Officers are subject to scheduled and random drug testing according to the policy.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws issued last year a statement urging the end of workplace cannabis testing.

“Suspicionless marijuana testing in the workplace, such as pre-employment drug screening, is not now, nor has it ever been, an evidence-based policy,” wrote NORML deputy dirctor Paul Armentano. “Rather, this discriminatory practice is a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s ‘war on drugs.’ But times have changed; attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed. It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat.”