The NYTimes wants to legalize weed, but still drug tests it’s employees. Why?

The NY Times editorial calling for an end to “Prohibition” was followed by screeches of hypocrisy, based on the NYT’s own drug policy. What compels companies to drug test employees in the first place?

The New York Times editorial department caused a big splash on Sunday, declaring that:

It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

Good for them for taking such a strong stance on what should really be a no-brainer policy change now. But Gawker noted – confirmed swiftly by the Huff Po – that the New York Times still tests it’s employees for drugs and has been clear they’re not about to change that policy:

“Our corporate policy on this issue reflects current law,” the spokeswoman said. “We aren’t going to get into details beyond that.”

It is of course illegal to, in the words of George Carlin, “drop, shoot, snort or rub into your belly,” anything more fun than alcohol. But what “current law” requires drug tests? What statute so hems in the New York Times drug policy?

Well, none exactly. But the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires that companies must drug test employees if they’re to receive any money from the Federal Government in the form of grants or loans or if they are to become contractors. So no, you don’t have to test your employees. You just can’t have any of that sweet, sweet government pie.

It seems unlikely that the New York Times is a federal contractor (snide comments aside). They do however have a rather large and expensive building in downtown New York, so who knows what grants or loans they’ve applied for?

But the law that seems most applicable to the New York Times drug policy would be New York’s own Worker’s Compensation laws, which allow companies to receive breaks on the cost of Worker’s Comp insurance in exchange for setting up drug testing policies. Money talks, especially in New York, and the State is giving out free cash for companies that want to invade their employees’ privacy.

What does New York State plan to do about these laws, now that they’ve made medical marijuana legal? What, for example, might the policy be for the 30-90 days required to get marijuana out of one’s system? Are employees required to open their medical records to the state, now that we need to make extra sure you’re allowed to have that weed?

As we move towards what I suspect is a fairly inevitable conclusion of this part of the Drug War, it’s important to remember that there are dozens of laws just like this on the Federal and State levels. Because of course, you can’t actually make a drug illegal: you can only prohibit it’s sale through countless little statutes. Statutes that will now need to be unwound if we’re to climb down from the high peak we find ourselves on.

Don’t hold your breath, is what I’m saying.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.