The NYPD announced recently that it would stop testing job applicants or police officers for marijuana use, following a memo from the city Law Department citing a legal finding that the practice is no longer legal — but then quickly backpedaled on the decision.
“The New York City Law Department has directed the NYPD to cease all random, scheduled and pre-employment testing for marijuana,” an NYPD spokesperson said early on July 13. “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.”
However, the department reversed itself two hours later, stating that it was in talks with the Law Department “over conflicts with the new state law and pre-existing federal law,” per the New York Daily News.
“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,” a police spokesperson stated.
NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell also issued a memo to commanders, assuring that the department would maintain its drug-testing policy.
“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,” Sewell said.
The proposed policy is a result of the state’s 2021 Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which legalized recreational marijuana use for individuals aged 21 and over.
The Law Department memo reads: “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 possible for marijuana because of improper use on the job or use during statutorily protected off-hours use.”
Some NYPD members did not favor the potential policy shift.
“I don’t agree with it at all, but I’m an old-time cop,” one police officer told the New York Daily News. “I think it sets a bad example. What’s next, shooting heroin?”
Another officer questioned whether the change was “fake news,” and raised concerns about the damaging effects of such a potential policy.
“This is all for people who can’t get into the academy because they test positive for marijuana,” a Manhattan officer said. “I guess you’re going to rehire all the people who doled out? This department is going downhill. What happens if the person shoots and kills somebody and they find out they were high on marijuana?”
The NYPD later reassured the public in a statement that it will continue to test its officers for cannabis and other drugs.