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Democrats Blast Biden Administration’s Employment Policy On Cannabis

Democratic lawmakers in Congress are calling on the Biden administration to clarify its policy on cannabis use by employees after reports that White House staffers had been fired or reassigned for their disclosed past marijuana use. News that dozens of administration employees had been fired, reassigned, or placed on remote duty was reported by the Daily Beast last week, less than a month after the White House announced that previous cannabis use would not disqualify candidates for some jobs under a new policy.

In a letter to the president, vocal cannabis policy reform advocate Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and 29 of his Democratic colleagues in the House called on Biden to put the White House employment policy on previous cannabis use clearly on the record.

“We ask that you clarify your employment suitability policies, remove past cannabis use as a potential disqualifier, and apply these policies with consistency and fairness,” the letter said.

Past Pot Use OK For Senior Officials

In addition to Blumenauer, the letter was signed by dozens of Democratic representatives, including Don Beyer of Virginia, Mondaire Jones of New York, California’s Barbara Lee, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Joaquin Castro of Texas. The lawmakers noted that senior members of the Biden administration including Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg have admitted to using marijuana in the past.

“Those in the upper ranks of your administration won’t face consequences for their cannabis use, and nor should they, but the same standard should be applied across the administration,” the letter said. 

“Repercussions for cannabis use have always been unequal and those with the most power have always faced the fewest consequences,” the letter to Biden continued. “We ask that you don’t allow that pattern to continue within your administration.”

The letter called on the Biden administration to “act within its power to stop legitimizing unfair cannabis laws.”

“You have previously expressed your commitment to decriminalizing cannabis in acknowledgment that a cannabis conviction or even the stigma of cannabis use can ruin lives and prevent people from voting, gaining employment, and contributing to society,” the Democrats wrote. “You can meet this moment and help end our failed punitive policy of cannabis prohibition.”

The Daily Beast reported on March 19 that dozens of staffers had been asked to resign or placed on remote duty for past cannabis use they had disclosed before being hired. However, a White House official told CNBC that no employees have been fired for cannabis use from “years ago” or from “casual or infrequent use” in the past 12 months.

“The Biden White House has been more permissive than past administrations on past marijuana use,” the official said.

The Biden administration’s new policy “has allowed around a dozen White House staff to continue serving in the administration who would not have been permitted under prior administrations’ policies,” the official added.

NORML Calls Firings “Highly Troubling”

When news of the actions by the White House made headlines last week, Erik Altieri, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), characterized the reports as “highly troubling.”

“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.”

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