Cleveland City Hall

Bibb Administration Modernizes Pre-Employment Testing as Marijuana Legalization Becomes Effective in Ohio

Thursday, Dec 07, 2023

Policy updates improve equity in hiring process while promoting safety and a drug-free workplace.

Thursday, December 7, 2023 — Cleveland — Mayor Justin M. Bibb announced today that the City of Cleveland has modernized its Drug and Alcohol Testing policy to eliminate antiquated language around pre-employment marijuana testing that has previously hindered hiring efforts.  Pre-employment testing will now be limited to selected positions that are identified as safety/security-sensitive, as well as positions that fall under the federal government’s Department of Transportation (DOT).  The announcement comes on the same day that Issue 2 becomes law – the ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana use that 57% of Ohioans and over 75% of Clevelanders passed 30 days ago.

“The criminalization of marijuana in our state and the punitive effects it has had on education, housing, and employment opportunities have lasted far too long, but will eventually be a thing of the past – thanks to Ohioans who made their voices heard loud and clear last month when they voted to approve Issue 2,” said Mayor Bibb.  “We are proud to continue leading the way by rolling out these updates, which builds on our prior marijuana reform efforts and other initiatives aimed at improving our HR policies.”

Last year, the Bibb Administration filed motions to expunge over 4,000 marijuana conviction records and then advocated for changes to State law to simplify the expungement process. Ohio Senate Bill 288 was eventually signed into law and took effect this April, allowing the City to move forward more efficiently and effectively with the process.  Since then, the City has partnered with other agencies to hold multiple expungement clinics.  The Bibb Administration has also led the way pushing through various other HR policy-related updates since taking office, including opening City Hall’s first gender-inclusive restroom in June and offering employees a new comprehensive paid parental leave policy that was passed in July.

Updating Pre-Employment Testing

The City will only conduct pre-employment testing for DOT positions and selected positions that are identified as safety/security-sensitive by the City, or when required by federal or state laws or collective bargaining agreements.  The selected positions include those within the Department of Public Safety (e.g. Police, Fire, & EMS), the Department of Port Control, as well as any others that require a CDL or operating heavy equipment, machines, and/or mechanical tools.  

“We are constantly evaluating our policies to ensure they align with the needs and desires of both our current and prospective employees.  Pre-employment screening can often times create obstacles in filling open positions by preventing otherwise qualified candidates from even applying,” stated Director of Human Resources Matt Cole.  “These policy updates are more cost-effective and will ultimately help us widen the applicant pool for several City positions.”

Similar policies have been implemented across the country – in Baltimore, Washington, Nevada, and Montana – as studies have shown that workplace performance is not related to after-work marijuana use.

Anyone who is interested in working for the City of Cleveland can view a list of current job openings and apply by going to the City’s Careers Page.

Maintaining a Drug-Free Workplace

The policy and procedures for testing current employees is largely unchanged.  The City will maintain its strict compliance with the Drug-Free Workplace Act and other federal regulations.  Employees are prohibited from purchasing, selling, possessing, using, distributing, and selling illegal drugs and alcohol at any worksite.  Employees are also required to be fit for work and cannot work while impaired – meaning free from the effects of alcohol and drugs, which includes marijuana, while on duty.  Those found in violation of the policy will be subject to discipline – ranging from being offered treatment through the City’s Employee Assistance Program to termination, depending on the circumstances.

“Maintaining a drug-free workplace is needed for obvious reasons, but it’s also important for us to be cognizant of the fact that the State is still finalizing regulation, taxation, and licensing terms and processes,” added Law Director Mark Griffin.  “We will be keeping a keen eye on how things get sorted out in the legislature and court system, and will adapt procedures and update policy as necessary as the situation evolves in Columbus.”