The Biden administration announcing that past marijuana use would not be a factor in employment and weeks later terminating staff for that exact reason sets a very dangerous precedent, says the executive director of a prominent activist group.
In a statement Monday, Kassandra Frederique of the Drug Policy Alliance urged United States President Joe Biden to stop reverting back to harmful drug war policies that have robbed so many people of their livelihoods.
Despite the White House stating in February that past cannabis use wouldn’t automatically disqualify staff, The Daily Beast reported on Friday that five people who disclosed weed use have lost their jobs, while others were asked to work remotely.
Responding to the report, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that more people would serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use.
As a result, more people will serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use. The bottom line is this: of the hundreds of people hired, only five people who had started working at the White House are no longer employed as a result of this policy.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) March 19, 2021
“Change starts at the top,” Frederique said in the DPA statement. “The majority of the policies we have in place today that consistently deny employment to people for drug use, arrests or convictions — and disproportionately impact people of color — started with the federal government.”
Such policies have not only failed to reduce drug use or improve safety, the non-profit group notes, but have prevented people from seeking assistance for their substance use, fearing consequences from their employers.
“For decades, the drug war has infiltrated workplace policies with drug testing and drug record discrimination,” reads the statement.
In his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden proposed automatically expunging all prior cannabis-use convictions, but recent statements from people working close to him on his campaign trail suggest he rejected an internal Democratic Party push for cannabis legalization for fears he would lose voters to Donald Trump.
SCOOP: Joe Biden, behind closed doors last summer, personally rejected a push to make legalizing cannabis the official policy of the Democratic Party.
Now the Biden White House is disqualifying staffers because they smoked weed. pic.twitter.com/I1pM2KDY8u
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) March 19, 2021
Iowa politician Stacey Walker, who was on the Biden-Sanders unity task force, says Biden was presented with data showing bipartisan support in favour of ending prohibition of adult-use marijuana.
In the absence of any evidence connecting drug use to poor job performance, the DPA says the flawed and discriminatory idea that people who use drugs cannot be good employees was planted at the inception of the modern drug war.
“And that idea unfortunately persists, impacting employment policies — from the White House to the local fast food joint and everything in between.”
Top photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons