As reform advocates remain waiting for President Joe Biden to fulfill campaign pledges to decriminalize cannabis, pardon nonviolent offenders and reschedule the plant, a new White House policy has emerged.
Under the Biden administration’s new employee conduct guidelines, individuals who have invested in cannabis companies can be denied security clearance, POLITICO reported March 2.
The news sheds continued light on anti-cannabis stances by the president as it pertains to employment. Last year, Biden’s employment policies came under the scope following alleged reports that dozens of young White House staffers were suspended or asked to resign due to past cannabis use.
Discouraging potential White House job seekers from investing in cannabis companies is the latest.
“Eligibility may be negatively impacted if an individual knowingly and directly invests in stocks or business ventures that specifically pertain to marijuana growers and retailers,” according to a government document obtained by POLITICO. “Decisions to willfully invest in such activity could reflect questionable judgment and an unwillingness to comply with laws, rules, and regulations.”
The document didn’t explicitly clarify which cannabis stocks or companies—American or non-domestic—the White House was referring to.
Morgan Fox, political director for reform advocacy group NORML, responded to the report.
“It makes no sense to limit the talent pool that is eligible for security clearances just because some of these applicants may have invested in legal cannabis businesses at home and abroad,” he said. “A growing number of U.S. states and nations are regulating cannabis for medical or adult use and need private investment in these industries to help bolster their economies.”
Fox added, “The White House’s outdated, exclusionary policy is inconsistent with the rapidly changing legal landscape around cannabis in the U.S. and globally, and unnecessarily limits access to capital that small cannabis businesses desperately need.”
In 2021, Kathleen M. McGettigan, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in the Biden Administration, issued guidance indicating that federal agencies should not automatically disqualify applicants from federal services solely based of past cannabis use.
“OPM’s suitability regulations regarding illegal drug use do not permit agencies to automatically find individuals unsuitable for federal service on the basis of marijuana use prior to appointment,” she wrote in the memorandum. “Even where an individual has illegally used marijuana without evidence of substantial rehabilitation, agencies cannot find an individual unsuitable unless there is a nexus between the conduct and the ‘integrity or . . . efficiency of the service.’”
Furthermore, Biden himself insisted along his 2020 campaign trail that he’d enact changes to certain cannabis policies that were more in line with the reform of the now 37 states that have legalized medical cannabis and 18 states that have legalized adult use.
“No one should be in jail because of cannabis use,” Biden said along the trail.
According to his campaign website, “As president, [Biden] will decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior convictions. And he will support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes, leave decisions regarding legalization for recreational use up to the states, and reschedule cannabis as a schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts.”
But when it comes to working as a White House staffer or gaining a government security clearance, prior cannabis use or an individual’s decision to invest in a cannabis company remains a different story