Cannabis reform leaders on Capitol Hill are responding to reports the Biden administration has taken major actions against staffers who admitted to past cannabis use on hiring.
Those staffers impacted were under the impression that mentioning their past cannabis use during the hiring process wouldn’t be an issue. But according to reporting from the Daily Beast’s Scott Bixby, Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley, it’s alleged that dozens of White House staffers have been suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program due to past marijuana use.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, issued a statement this morning following the reports first coming to light on Thursday evening.
“What’s happening now is a vivid illustration of unrealistic, unfair and out of touch cannabis policies,” Blumenauer said. “There is confusion across the country because of out-of-date laws and the fact that the American public is not waiting for the federal government to get its act together.”
Blumenauer went on to note the Biden administration might use the moment to make more progress in the direction most Americans are already heading on the issue.
“This is an opportunity for the Biden administration to help end the failed War on Drugs and make a more rational policy for everyone,” said Blumenauer. “This is where America is going and I hope they figure out a path forward that is fair and realistic. In the meantime, these young people should not be singled out and discriminated against for something that is legal in much of the country and supported by the vast majority of Americans.”
In a statement this morning to media, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) noted the allegations come weeks after the Office of Personnel Management issued updated guidance indicating that federal agencies would not automatically disqualify applicants from federal service solely because of their past use of cannabis, but rather “should exercise special care before making a determination of unsuitability for criminal conduct based on marijuana possession.”
NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri spoke to just how backwards this all feels in modern America.
“These reports, if accurate, are highly troubling,” Altieri said. “They appear to run counter to the administration’s own policies, which recognize that a growing number of U.S. jurisdictions – including Washington, D.C. – have legalized the use of cannabis by adults, and which acknowledge the undue hardships caused by the ongoing criminalization of marijuana at the federal level.”
Altieri went on to liken the kind of thought process it took for the Biden administration to make this move to the most bottom of the barrel YouTube comment sections.
“This sort of ‘Flat Earth’ mentality refuses to recognize the reality that millions of Americans currently engage in the use of cannabis in a manner that is compliant with the laws of their states and that these people are at no greater risk for occupational accidents or injuries,” Altieri said. “They should not be singled out and discriminated against solely for this activity, and it is highly inappropriate for the Biden Administration to take these punitive actions.”
“While we may not know all the details of these cases, this looks really bad for the White House,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “Punishing current and potential employees for past cannabis use, particularly under circumstances where it was protected by state laws, flies in the face of the administration’s purported emphasis on fairness and sensible cannabis policies, to say nothing of its very recent guidance to federal agencies in this area. At the very least, this sends the wrong message to federal personnel managers, as well as policymakers and employers across the country.”
“Three of the last five presidents – including the current president’s former boss – have admitted to consuming cannabis,” Smith continued. “The idea that past use would make a person unfit for service in the White House or ineligible for a security clearance is laughable.”