The House Oversight and Accountability Committee moved forward with a bill that would expand federal employment opportunities for people who used cannabis at some point in their lives.
The Cannabis Users’ Restoration of Eligibility Act passed the committee in a 30-14 vote. It would allow federal agencies to consider applicants with a prior history of cannabis use when they are making employment and security clearance decisions.
NORML, the nation’s oldest cannabis reform organization, praised the move by Congress.
“Applicants for federal employment and security clearances should not be unfairly disqualified solely for their past cannabis use,” NORML’s Political Director Morgan Fox said. “While it is disappointing that the committee did not see fit to stop federal agencies from discriminating against those responsible adults and patients who are current consumers of cannabis, this legislation will nonetheless open up new opportunities to millions of Americans, increase the talent pool available to federal employers, and ultimately make our country safer.”
Fox went on to note many agencies are already reducing the impact cannabis use has on their hiring processes.
“The Office of Personnel Management has similarly recommended that all federal agencies limit the window of time during which one’s past cannabis use is considered for denial of employment,” Fox said. “And a growing number of states are taking steps to protect the employment rights of responsible cannabis consumers and increase the opportunities available to them. Congress should do the same, and this overwhelming bipartisan vote today shows that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are moving in the right direction.”
After the FBI loosened its policy on marijuana smokers in the summer of 2021, it famously said that smoking marijuana more than 24 times would disqualify potential candidates. As Marijuana Moment noted at the time, there was no explanation of how the FBI got to that number. Use prior to someone’s 18th birthday would not disqualify them, so you had to have broken the law 24 times as an adult.
The concept of opening the door for more people with a history of cannabis use is nothing new, but a decade ago in the months after Colorado and Washington kicked off our grand legalization experiment, it was a little “too soon” for some lawmakers. Then FBI Director James Comey joked to Congress that the amount of people who smoke weed these days is making the hiring process a bit trickier for the nation’s chief law enforcement agency,
“I have to hire a great workforce to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” Comey said at the time according to The Wall Street Journal.
While still a senator, Jeff Sessions got mad at Comey claiming his words could be construed as something supportive of cannabis use. Comey clapped back that was certainly not the case, but his hiring reality, and he was determined to not lose his sense of humor regardless of how serious a job it is to run the FBI.
Gallup noted in 2021 nearly half of all Americans have smoked marijuana at some point in their lives. It seems like preventing half the population from getting a government job is absolutely madness. As more and more states move forward with legalization, it will become even more unsustainable to prevent our best and brightest from serving their country in some capacity because they smoked a little bit of cannabis.
Hopefully, the CURE Act will continue on its path through Congress and onto the president’s desk, to give these people a shot at doing whatever they see fit in service to the rest of us.
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