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President Pardons Americans Convicted of Marijuana Possession

Two marijuana buds on top of a white background.

President Joe Biden on Oct. 6 pardoned all people convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law. Employers may want to examine how this could impact their hiring and drug-testing policies.

We have gathered articles on the topic from SHRM Online and other trusted news sources.

Thousands Pardoned

The pardons will clear about 6,500 people who were convicted on federal charges of simple possession of marijuana from 1992 to 2021 and thousands more who were convicted of possession in the District of Columbia. The president urged governors to follow his lead for people convicted on state charges of possession. The Biden administration will review whether marijuana should still be a Class 1 drug like heroin and LSD.

(The New York Times)

Decriminalizing Marijuana

The pardons could help thousands of people overcome obstacles to finding a job. "Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana," Biden said. "It's time that we right these wrongs."

Biden said the federal government should maintain limitations on trafficking, marketing and underage sales of marijuana.

(The Associated Press)

Legalization Efforts Stalled in Congress

White House officials said the president offered the pardons to fulfill a campaign promise, as legalization efforts in Congress have stalled. The Justice Department will issue certificates of pardons to those eligible. The vast majority of convictions happen at the state level.

(USA Today)

Protecting Off-Duty Cannabis Use

At least 37 states have approved medical marijuana use, and 18 of those states and Washington, D.C., have approved recreational marijuana use. Some states like California, New Jersey and New York provide legal protections for employees who consume marijuana during their off-work hours.

(SHRM Online)

Drug-Testing Policies

Businesses that still maintain workplace drug-testing policies may be struggling to comply with complex state and local cannabis laws while also finding that more workers are testing positive for marijuana. Many employers are hesitant to test workers as they struggle with staffing shortages. 

The legal landscape surrounding marijuana and the workplace is dynamic and changing quickly. Employers must navigate a labyrinth of federal and state statutes and court decisions when developing substance-abuse policies and drug-testing practices around cannabis.

(SHRM Online and SHRM Resource Hub Page)


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