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Is pot legal in New York? Not if you're a cop

We recently looked at what changes we might expect to see now that recreational marijuana use is being legalized in New York. Proponents of this change are predicting all sorts of wonderful benefits, while both law enforcement and some medical experts have been more cautious, to say the least. But one result that wasn’t anticipated by at least some of the people weighing in was the direct impact this could have on New York’s police officers. While they may save some time by not having to chase down every person firing up a joint on a street corner, the NYPD is being reminded that they are not invited to join in on the partying activities. In a memo sent out by the department on Friday, officers were reminded that marijuana use is still “strictly prohibited,” and anyone found to be stoned or failing a periodic drug screening test will face disciplinary action including the possibility of termination. (New York Post)

Marijuana may now be legal in the Empire State, but the NYPD doesn’t want New York’s Finest going to pot, according to a memo dispatched to all uniformed and civilian members.

“With regard to recently passed state legislation that legalized the recreational use of marijuana, uniformed and civilian members of the service are reminded that the use of marijuana is still strictly prohibited,” the memo, sent out Friday reads.

“All existing patrol guide procedures regarding its prohibition as well as drug screening procedures remain in effect. Members are reminded that they must be fit for duty at all times. Members who are found unfit for duty or who fail a drug screening test are subject to suspension and/or termination at the discretion of the Police Commissioner.” The memo was issued by the commanding officer of the NYPD medical division.

So nothing is changing in terms of the rules as they apply to police officers and sheriff’s deputies, along with any other uniformed law enforcement personnel across the state. They are all regularly given drug screenings as a condition of employment and marijuana will remain on the list of banned substances.

The cops aren’t the only ones finding themselves in this situation. If you have a job that requires a security clearance or if your employer has any government contracts, nothing has changed. Also, if you have a job anywhere in New York with the state or federal government, you are similarly not invited to join in on the weed festival. The reason, as we’ve discussed here in the past, is that pot remains a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level. (Chuck Schumer has promised to try to change that in Washington, “with or without” Joe Biden’s support, but that’s an effort that will take time if it succeeds at all.)

Employees and job applicants all over the country have continued to run into this issue. The phenomenon reached as high as the White House recently when the Biden administration reneged on a promise to waive the marijuana use restriction for staffers, sending the careers of all sorts of politicos up in smoke.

Schumer’s path to fixing this issue may not be an easy one. There are still disturbing reports coming out from medical studies showing alarming levels of psychosis showing up in habitual users of today’s much stronger strains of weed. There are also lingering issues regarding how law enforcement will be able to test drivers to find out if they are driving under the influence of cannabis since no accurate test methods are available such as the ones used to detect alcohol consumption.

Nothing is ever as simple as it looks at first glance, is it? The New York legislature has given the green light to recreational use of the herb, but that doesn’t mean that all of the issues complicating the situation have magically disappeared.