New York City passed a bill Tuesday that would prohibit employers from testing potential job applicants for tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the active drug found in marijuana. The bill, which breezed through the City Council in a 41-4 vote, is part of a larger package of initiatives aimed at reducing the criminalization and penalties associated with marijuana use. 

"Prospective employers don’t test for alcohol, so marijuana should be no different. We need to be creating more access points for employment, not less. And as we push for legalization on a state level, it makes absolutely no sense that we’re keeping people from finding jobs or advancing their careers because of marijuana use,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who sponsored the bill along with Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo and Council Member Carlina Rivera.

The bill makes exceptions for certain positions, like police officers, drivers, healthcare workers and those looking after children. They also excluded construction workers and anyone whose job requires drug testing under a collective bargaining agreement. 

"False stigma and illogical policy around marijuana continue to harm people. Today the New York City Council passed my bill to ban pre-employment marijuana testing and help end a war on drugs which has become a war on workers, especially in black and brown communities," Williams wrote on Twitter after the bill was passed. 

The City Council passed a second bill banning the Department of Probation from testing people for THC, a practice which has contributed to high rates of recidivism in the New York City prison system.

The City Council’s Progressive Caucus said in a statement that the bills were "an important step in the decriminalization of marijuana and the reduction of collateral consequences, such as job loss and loss of access to subsidized housing and other public benefits.”

The caucus has big plans for marijuana. Just last month, it released a plan to pass four bills and about a dozen resolutions aimed at reducing the impact of marijuana arrests in New York City.  

As New York prepares to legalize marijuana in the coming years, some council members have set their sights on making sure that those affected most by the war on drugs are the first to receive any of the benefits that come from legalization.

Councilman Antonio Reynoso of Brooklyn said last month that the "prohibition of marijuana has subjected low-income communities of color to targeted and disproportionate policing and enforcement, the effects of which have been devastating for individuals and entire communities."

“These are the Black and brown communities like the one I grew up in and represent who have for so long been targeted, arrested, criminalized and harmed because of minor drug infractions,” said Councilman Rafael Espinal.

Last year, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released a report showing that the marijuana market in New York State could be worth up to $3.1 billion, including about $1.1 billion in New York City alone. The city would make up to $335 million in tax revenue from marijuana. 

“The money from legalizing marijuana must be invested in communities that have been disproportionately targeted by marijuana enforcement,” Espinal said.

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