Cleveland City Hall sits at the intersection of Lakeside Avenue and East Sixth Street.
Cleveland City Council announced Monday that $33 million worth of medical debt held by 16,000 Cleveland residents was canceled by RIP Medical Debt, the national nonprofit that buys patients’ debt from hospitals at a steep discount. Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

As Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration works to expunge minor marijuana convictions, City Hall is testing job applicants for marijuana use. 

Human Resources Director Paul Patton acknowledged during Cleveland City Council’s budget hearings Thursday that the city conducts drug screens as part of the employee background check.  

Under questioning from Ward 12 Council Member Rebecca Maurer, Patton said that the city considers a positive test for marijuana use to be disqualifying. 

Maurer pointed out that Bibb has taken the lead on expunging Clevelanders’ marijuana convictions. The mayor even noted in a fundraising email this week that the city had received $10,000 from the U.S. Conference of Mayors for its expungement work. 

“Do you have concerns about the discrepancy between those two positions?” she asked Patton. 

Patton replied that the test would only detect recent use, not use in the more distant past. He did not say which jobs require a drug screen as part of the application process.

“The drug tests evaluate whether or not someone has tested positive for marijuana use or other substance abuse,” he said. “It does not address someone’s past – year ago, two years ago – use of marijuana. But if a person tests positive for substance abuse, they are disqualified from the opportunity to seek employment.” 

The Bibb administration made a big push last year to wipe out minor marijuana use or possession criminal records. When the city ran into legal roadblocks, the mayor lobbied state lawmakers to clear a way forward for these efforts.  

For her part, Maurer said she did not think it would be appropriate for an employee to be high on the job. But as cities and states legalize marijuana, she said Cleveland should rethink its policy on cannabis. 

“I hope that as we, frankly, modernize our policies, our approach to marijuana throughout Ohio and throughout the city and throughout the country, we update this policy,” Maurer said, “since I think it’s preventing us from hiring, frankly, quality candidates who don’t come to work high.” 

Government Reporter (he/him)
Nick joins us from the world of public radio. He has more than a decade experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In 2021, he produced and hosted "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.