Changes to Federal Hiring Questions About Marijuana Need Approval from The White House!

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The United States government is attempting to get the White House to approve new guidelines for federal hiring that would be significantly more tolerant of applicants’ histories of marijuana use. If implemented, the proposed modifications would greatly increase the number of people who could apply for government positions.

There is a question on the federal government’s current application forms asking whether or not the applicant has used cannabis in the past year, five years, or seven years, depending on the position’s required level of security. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has proposed limiting inquiries into candidates’ marijuana use to the preceding ninety days.

In addition, questions about marijuana use would be added as a separate section rather than being bundled in with those about other prohibited substances under the proposed revisions.

In addition, they would make it crystal clear that anyone who uses hemp, or cannabis products with less than 0.3% THC, which is already considered acceptable under federal law, does not have to report their usage.

The agency first made the announcement in a notice published in the Federal Register at the end of last year, saying that it wanted to increase the number of people who could apply for federal jobs by accommodating “changing societal norms” in light of the growing legalization movement at the state level. With that statement, a 60-day period for public feedback had been established.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must now accept the revisions, according to a notice to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday. There will be a new 30-day comment period open to the public.

Positions with varied degrees of sensitivity and security are covered by the present SF85, SF85P, SF 85P-S, and SF86 forms; these would be replaced by the proposed Personnel Vetting Questionnaire (PVQ). Applicants must indicate whether or not they have ever used illegal drugs by marking a box on the form.

According to the most recent statement from OPM, the agency received about 280 responses from 55 commenters regarding the proposed new uniform questionnaire, many of whom expressed hope that the adjustment will increase the number of people qualified to apply for federal positions.

One recent commenter claimed that OPM “has a duty to ensure that the Federal Government workforce correctly represents America,” and the agency responded in the latest notice that they concur with this sentiment.

OPM agrees with a commenter who backed the new approach and said, “The PVQ should reflect that given most Americans live in places where marijuana is legal, they should not be precluded from working in the Federal Government,” hence the policy has been updated to reflect this.

The PVQ will considerably increase the number of qualified applicants for Federal jobs because it will only inquire about marijuana use within the past three months (instead of the past seven years).

Government organizations and private firms both provided feedback. In general, the change was supported by the lists of proposed edits given by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

Boeing and Lockheed Martin, two major aerospace contractors, also provided technical suggestions to make the plan more practical.

However, OPM stated in the revised notice that it “did not adjust its approach to the collecting of information about the use of marijuana as a result of the concerns received.”

All things considered, the new draught form’s marijuana questions appear to provide federal employers with more specific information, perhaps allowing them to exercise discretion when making employment decisions based on past cannabis use.

If a person replies “yes” to a question about using marijuana during the past 90 days, for instance, they will be asked related questions. And that includes asking for an explanation with no further guidance given to the applicant.

If a person serving in a position related to national security, public safety, or criminal justice answers “yes” to the 90-day question, they will be shown a series of follow-up questions about their use, including how often they use it, how recently they used it, and the “circumstances surrounding your use.”

The proposed screening form also includes questions about whether or not applicants have been “involved in the manufacture, cultivation, trafficking, production, transfer, shipping, receiving, handling the sale, or illegal purchase of marijuana or cannabis derivative” in the preceding five years, as well as whether or not they intend to become involved in such activity in the future.

Waivers for people who have used cannabis in the past were made legal by the Biden administration in 2020, but some politicians are seeking further reform in the upcoming year.

For instance, in November 2017, during a congressional hearing on marijuana legalization, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) announced his intention to introduce legislation to prevent government employees from being denied security clearances due to marijuana use.

More than a hundred thousand people live in my home state alone, and we have 2.85 million federal workers in the United States, he remarked. More than half of American adults have tried marijuana at least once in their lives, yet those who admit to doing so on a security clearance form have been denied federal employment.

Raskin offered an amendment to a marijuana legalization bill last year that would have made it illegal to cite cannabis “as a justification to reject or withdraw a security clearance” retrospectively. The House ultimately passed the bill without the addition. Nonetheless, a vote on the floor resulted in a narrow defeat for that measure.

Senate leaders wanted to include a clause prohibiting the denial of security clearances over cannabis as part of pushing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last year, but they were unable to do so because of the NDAA’s strict language regarding the use of medical marijuana.

Last year, the idea was approved by a Senate committee, but it was ultimately scrapped because of opposition from two Republican senators over the marijuana language.

Workplace cannabis policies have come under intense scrutiny as more states have taken steps to legalize marijuana.

In 2017, the largest federal employee union in the country passed a resolution in favor of marijuana legalization and demanding an end to regulations that punish federal employees for using cannabis responsibly outside of work hours in areas where such use is legal.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced federal marijuana legalization legislation in July, and inside that bill was a provision that would bar federal employers from testing employees for cannabis, with some exceptions for positions in law enforcement and national security.

Nonetheless, despite state-level moves to legalize cannabis, federal agencies have been hesitant to relax cannabis-related employment laws.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), to give one example, has recently proposed changes to drug testing policies for federal employees, such as making it clear that a recommendation from a doctor for medical marijuana or any other Schedule I drug is not an acceptable explanation for a positive test result.

In 2021, the DNI stated that federal companies should exercise judgment when deciding whether to hire people who have cannabis investments in their stock portfolios or have tested positive for cannabis use in the past.

The FBI changed its hiring criteria in 2021 so that applicants would no longer be disqualified if they admitted to using marijuana within the previous year. Prior to this policy change, potential employees of the agency may not have used cannabis within the preceding three years.

The DOT has adopted a new tack on its cannabis policy, declaring in a notice for 2020 that it would not be testing drivers for CBD. Regardless of the legal status of cannabis in a given state, DOT has just reaffirmed that its regulated staff is forbidden from consuming the drug and will continue to be subject to drug testing.

In May of last year, Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon wrote to the head of the Department of Transportation (DOT) to express his concern that the DOT’s policies regarding drug testing truckers and other commercial drivers for marijuana are contributing to supply chain issues and costing people their jobs.

Regardless of changes in “social norms” or state laws, employees of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are not allowed to use marijuana or invest in the industry.

Immediately after Biden’s inauguration, his administration was criticized by proponents due to rumors that the White House had fired or otherwise disciplined dozens of employees who were honest about their history with marijuana.

Former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement in an effort to dampen the uproar, claiming that no one had been let go because of their “marijuana consumption from years past” or “due to casual or infrequent use within the prior 12 months.”

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