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New York Employee Drug Policy

Are Employers Permitted For Cannabis Testing in New York?

The implementation of New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) held significance due to several factors. Apart from establishing the foundation for adult-use sales, it also brought about a redefinition of labor laws in New York State about cannabis usage. With the MRTA in effect, employees in New York now own certain rights that prohibit employers from denying employment or engaging in any form of discrimination against most workers based on their personal cannabis consumption outside of work hours.


Continue reading for further information about drug testing in New York State.

NY Employers Cannot Test Most Workers for Cannabis


With the legalization of marijuana, can employers conduct tests for its use? Generally, the answer is no, although there are a few exceptions.


The MRTA played a crucial role in making New York the pioneering state in forbidding employers to conduct drug tests on employees. Still, certain situations and occupations are eligible for drug testing:


  • Under state or federal law, the employer must conduct drug tests for specific employees.
  • If the employer fails to conduct drug testing, they risk losing their federal contract or funding.
  • According to workplace safety laws, the employee is displaying symptoms of cannabis impairment that are impacting their job performance or compromising the employer’s responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy work environment.


The use of drug testing cannot be justified based on the “specific symptom of cannabis impairment.” Smelling like cannabis does not provide enough grounds for a drug test or any subsequent action, as it is not considered a valid reason to assume someone is impaired.


Will Prior Cannabis Convictions Show Up on Background Tests?


If the conviction is from New York, it will be subject to the state’s Cannabis Control Board’s announcement. The board stated that approximately 203,000 cannabis-related charges are currently being withheld from background checks in New York. These records will be either sealed or expunged as a component of the MRTA.

Can Employers Prohibit the Use of Cannabis During Meals or Breaks?


No, it is against the law to consume food or beverages in the workplace, regardless of whether you are on-site or elsewhere. This prohibition also includes meals and breaks, whether they are paid or unpaid. This regulation is enforced because break time is considered part of the official working hours.

Can Employers Prohibit Cannabis Use When an Employee is On-Call?


Yes. On-call shifts, like other breaks taken outside of regular working hours, are considered part of the work hours.

Can Employers Require Employees to Agree Not to Use Cannabis as a Condition of Employment?


Employers are prohibited by Section 201-D of the state Labor Law from demanding employees relinquish their rights as a condition for being hired or continuing employment.

Can Employers Prohibit Employees From Using Cannabis at Home if They Work From Home?


According to New York’s labor law, an employee’s private house is not classified as a workplace. Besides, employers have the right to forbid remote workers from consuming cannabis while they are on duty.

Can Medical Marijuana Patients be Fired in New York?


Users of medical marijuana who are employed in New York were already granted protection by the Compassionate Care Act, which was put into effect in 2016. Certified patients are recognized as having a disability according to the Human Rights Law of New York State. The exemptions to this policy are comparable to the ones mentioned earlier.


  • The workplace or company time can still enforce restrictions on the use of marijuana.
  • The employer has no obligation to infringe upon federal laws about drug testing or drug use.
  • If accommodating medical cannabis use would result in the loss of a federal contract, employers are not obligated to grant exceptions.


Employers should be aware that signs of impairment may be related to a disability rather than the use of cannabis. Even if the employer is unaware of the disability, they are prohibited from using these signs as reasons for termination or bias.


Can Employers Be Sued for Continuing Cannabis Drug Tests?


In the majority of situations, the answer is affirmative. With only a few rare instances, employers are generally not allowed to use cannabis or drug tests as grounds for denying employment.

Getting a Job with a Medical Marijuana Card in New York


Residents in New York who hold a medical cannabis card face minimal obstacles in terms of job restrictions and invasive cannabis screenings, thanks to current regulations.


As a result, they should face no difficulties in finding employment while possessing a NY medical cannabis card. But, it is important to remain cautious about any exceptions and guidelines during work hours.

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