By Sydney Kashiwagi

New York City employers could soon be barred from testing prospective job candidates for marijuana as a condition of employment under a bill passed nearly unanimously by the City Council.

The bill, introduced by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, however, would exempt safety, sensitive security jobs and those tied to a federal or state contract or grant from the policy.

The legislation passed Tuesday comes as the city and state have both gotten behind legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Over the summer, de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill announced the NYPD would issue criminal summonses instead of arrests to people caught smoking pot in public.

They said the shift in marijuana enforcement would reduce the overall number of pot arrests by about 10,000 per year.

"We need to be creating more access points for employment, not less- and as we move toward legalization, it makes absolutely no sense that we're keeping people from finding jobs or advancing their careers because of marijuana use. This legislation, like the Fair Chance Act before it, is good for both employers and prospective employees. It expands the pool of applicants by preventing people from being shut out. I thank Speaker Corey Johnson and my colleagues for moving quickly to pass this bill," Williams said.

Minority Leader Steven Matteo (R-Mid Island) was the only councilman to vote against the legislation. He argued that private businesses should have the right to decide whether test prospective candidates for drugs.

"Private businesses should have the power to determine their own hiring practices -- not just in deciding what skills and experience are relevant to certain positions, but also whether the use of a specific drug could have an adverse impact on a prospective employee's ability to perform," the Mid Island councilman said.

The bill will still need to be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who in a report released by his administration last year, started that the city would support barring public and private employers from denying people employment if they test positive for pot or because of prior marijuana arrest convictions.

(c)2019 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.