As more states fire up debate on the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical use, the practice of drug testing in Community Corrections is coming under closer scrutiny. In February, the Philadelphia City Council convened for a hearing on bias and the ethical and practical implications of testing parolees and probationers for a substance that is fast-becoming decriminalized in many jurisdictions. Not long after that, the New York City Council passed bills prohibiting testing most job applicants for marijuana and, (hold on to your test cups) banning the testing of probationers for the substance as well.
The Philly debate questioned the legitimacy and fairness of testing for a legal substance, and punishing those who obtain it through illegal means, while giving a pass to persons who have the means to obtain a physician’s legal prescription. The dividing line between these two groups? Race and class. If marijuana is legal, why test for it at all? Eliminating testing for a legal substance might be a partial solution to ending bias and discrimination, but is it the best response?