Oakland City Council committee votes to end testing for off-the-job cannabis use

Two new studies have found a link between frequent cannabis use and increased risk of stroke, as well as a link between cannabis use disorder and increased risk of arrhythmia. (Courtesy of the American Heart Association)

The Oakland City Council's Public Safety Committee voted unanimously Tuesday on an ordinance to end the testing of city employees for off-the-job cannabis use considering the crisis the city is facing recruiting and retaining employees, Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan's office said. 

The Public Safety Committee's vote means the proposed ordinance will go before the full City Council and an approval there would do away with the testing. 

Kaplan introduced the proposed ordinance, which was co-authored by City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, Council Pro Tem Sheng Thao, and Councilmember Dan Kalb. 

"To exclude, discipline, or eliminate employees based on conduct that is not job-related, and which we have legalized, is not only unjust to the worker directly impacted -- it also harms the public and reduces our ability to provide desperately needed public services," Kaplan said in a statement. 

"Furthermore, it is unjust, and goes against the spirit of our cannabis legalization policies to penalize or exclude employees for cannabis use -- as long as they are not impaired or using at work," Kaplan said. 

Oakland currently tests city employees for cannabis metabolites, which can show up in tests for weeks after someone uses cannabis. The test is not an accurate indicator of impairment, Kaplan said. 

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At least four major cities in the U.S. including New York and Atlanta have rules that protect their employees from discrimination based on the use of marijuana off the job. 

Kaplan said it's unfortunate that as innovative as Oakland is, it is behind other cities on this idea. 

She said employment vacancies in the city are "undermining public services" and that society's prohibition of cannabis has resulted in "a disproportionate number of penalties falling overwhelmingly on African Americans."