Bipartisan bill would bar agencies from denying job applicants over weed use

Agencies would also have to set up a process for reconsidering decisions that denied someone a job or clearance over weed use dating back to 2008.

New bipartisan legislation in the House would prevent agencies from denying someone a government job or security clearance based on marijuana use, while also giving those previously denied over weed use a chance to contest that decision.

The latest legislative effort comes as marijuana laws continue to evolve across the country at the state level. And it follows legislation advancing in the Senate to prohibit intelligence agencies from denying someone a security clearance based on past weed use.

Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) introduced the Cannabis Users Restoration of Eligibility (CURE) Act earlier this week.

The legislation would prohibit agencies from denying someone a security clearance or finding them unsuitable for federal employment due to “current or past use” of marijuana.

The bill would abolish “draconian, failed and obsolete marijuana policies that prevent talented individuals from becoming honorable public servants in their own government,” Raskin said in a statement.

“Every year, qualified and dedicated individuals seeking to serve our country are unable to secure federal jobs and security clearances because the federal government has not caught up with the widely established legal use of medical and recreational cannabis,” he said.

And the legislation would also require agencies to establish a process for reviewing any decision dating back to 2008 that denied someone a clearance or federal job over marijuana use.

The Raskin-Mace bill comes as 38 states, three territories and the District of Columbia now allow the medical use of marijuana. Meanwhile, Minnesota became the 23rd state to legalize recreational marijuana earlier this year.

The Biden administration has taken steps to pardon people previously convicted of simple possession of marijuana, while also announcing an effort to reschedule the drug at the federal level. But the administration hasn’t addressed how marijuana use should factor into federal employment decisions.

“We strongly support the CURE Act because it will bring federal employment policies into line with the views of most Americans,” Ed Conklin, executive director of the US Cannabis Council, said in a statement released by Raskin’s office. “Cannabis use should never prevent a qualified candidate from serving his or her country as a federal employee.”

There have been attempts in recent years to loosen policies to ensure prospective applicants don’t eliminate themselves from a potential federal job due to concerns about previously using weed.

The Office of Personnel Management in 2021 issued guidance clarifying that past marijuana use shouldn’t automatically preclude federal applicants or appointees from most government jobs. OPM sets the “suitability” standards used by agencies to determine whether someone is fit to serve in a federal position.

However, OPM’s guidance reiterates that marijuana is still considered a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The 1986 Drug-Free Workplace executive order requires federal employees to refrain from using illegal drugs at all times.

“An individual’s disregard of federal law pertaining to marijuana while employed by the federal government remains relevant and may lead to disciplinary action,” OPM said in the 2021 memo. “It is important to note that it is also the policy of the federal government to offer appropriate prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs and services for federal civilian employees with drug problems.”

Meanwhile, in late 2021, the Office Director of National Intelligence issued guidance clarifying that prior marijuana use shouldn’t be the sole reason for denying someone a security clearance. The DNI sets the “security” standards to determine whether someone should be able to access classified information.

The guidance emphasizes that the illegal use of any controlled substances “can raise security concerns about an individual’s reliability and trustworthiness to access classified information or to hold a sensitive position, as well as their ability or willingness to comply with laws, rules, and regulations.”

But it also instructs agencies that prior recreational marijuana use by an individual “may be relevant to adjudications but not determinative” in granting a clearance. It references a 2017 security directive that tells agencies to apply the “whole person concept” to a clearance decision.

However, a recent survey conducted by ClearanceJobs and the Intelligence and National Security Foundation found many young people are still confused about policies around drug use and security clearance eligibility.

Meanwhile, a provision championed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in the fiscal 2024 intelligence authorization act would prohibit intelligence agencies from denying someone a security clearance based solely that individual’s use of marijuana prior to submitting their clearance application.

That intelligence legislation just passed the Senate as part of the fiscal 2024 national defense authorization bill.


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