All new permanent employees for the City of Wrangell must pass a drug test, based on a vote by the assembly Tuesday. The city will also request federal background checks for all these hires. The resolution passed with a 4-1 vote.
Assembly member David Powell says the new policy implements consistency in the city’s hiring practices.
“We’ve never really had a policy on background checks or anything like that so it’s really cleaning up our policy on hiring,” he says.
Previously, only certain positions required either of these checks. Employees at the school and Parks and Recreation undergo a background check, since they work closely with children. Employees with commercial driver licenses are subject to random drug testing through the Department of Transportation.
The single no vote, Assembly member Julie Decker, does not think applicants should be turned away for having consumed marijuana.
“I just feel like we shouldn’t be testing for it, it’s legal in the state of Alaska,” she says.
Despite that, the city is reluctant to omit or disregard the marijuana portion of a drug test. Since the substance is still illegal at the federal level, the city manager raised concerns that explicitly sanctioning the use of marijuana could impact federal funding.
Decker questioned how likely the feds are to push back. City Manager Lisa Von Bargen replied “it’s hard to say.”
The policy, with no explicit leniency for marijuana, went into effective immediately.