Petition Demanding New York Times Stop Testing For Marijuana Gets Thousands Of Signatures

Pedestrians wait for cabs across the street from The New York Times on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in New York. The New York Tim
Pedestrians wait for cabs across the street from The New York Times on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in New York. The New York Times on Wednesday announced that executive editor Jill Abramson is being replaced by managing editor Dean Baquet after two and a half years on the job. The company didn’t give a reason for the change. (AP Photo)

As The New York Times continues to roll out editorials supporting the legalization of marijuana, a petition has received thousands of signatures calling for the paper of record to bring its marijuana testing policy in closer alignment with its editorial message.

The petition, created last week by marijuana policy reform group Marijuana Majority and dispensary locator company WeedMaps, demands that Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the chairman and publisher of The New York Times, stop drug testing new employees for marijuana.

"No one is saying that employers should be forced to deal with workers who are intoxicated at the office," the petition reads, "but off-duty marijuana use doesn't negatively impact a journalist's ability to do his or her job. Traditional drug testing programs cannot determine whether someone is currently high; they merely test for metabolites that indicate whether someone used marijuana as far back as a month ago. The Times should replace its outdated drug testing policy."

As of Monday, the petition has received almost 4,500 signatures in support.

"The Times and its publisher have a great position on the need to end government discrimination against people who use marijuana," Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, told The Huffington Post. "It's very hard to understand why the Times feels like it needs to check the content of journalists' urine before they're allowed to report stories."

A Times spokeswoman wouldn't go into detail but told HuffPost last week that the paper's policy for drug testing hasn’t changed, despite the editorial board's decision to support legalization.

“Our corporate policy on this issue reflects current law,” the spokeswoman said.

But Angell takes issue with that stance. "There's absolutely nothing on the lawbooks that requires the newspaper to continue carrying out this wasteful and discriminatory practice," Angell said. "It's up to the publisher alone, and he should match the paper's great editorial talk with some ethical HR walk."

Despite the paper running a series of op-eds beginning last week calling on the federal government to repeal marijuana prohibition, the Times is one of several big media companies that still require new hires to take a drug test.

Editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal spoke about the apparent gap between the editorial position of the paper and the HR practice of drug testing employees on MSNBC's "All In With Chris Hayes" last week.

"Whether we're going to continue testing for marijuana or not, I don't know," Rosenthal said. "If they ask me, I'll say stop. But they won't. They tend not to [consult the editorial page on HR issues]."



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