CURE Act Could Provide Cannabis Users Access to Federal Employment

August 24, 2023

A recently proposed legislation may improve the labor pool for federal employers. The bipartisan law is the Cannabis Users Restoration of Eligibility (CURE) Act, introduced by Reps. Jamie Raskin, Nancy Mace, and Earl Blumenauer.

The CURE Act would restore access to security clearances and federal employment for current and former marijuana users. Furthermore, individuals denied clearance or work due to marijuana may request a new review of their denial. According to the proposal, this review process would encompass anyone dismissed since 2008.

How It Started

In 2022, the Biden administration reviewed the correlation between past marijuana and work. As a result, the Office of Personnel Management declared that previous use should not prevent individuals from federal work or government jobs. The Biden administration followed this clarification with a blanket pardon. Through this decision, the President pardoned those with simple possession of marijuana under federal law. 

He also revealed that the administration would reevaluate how the Controlled Substances Act scheduled marijuana. These intentions reflect the current federal government’s sympathy with those criminalized for marijuana usage. It also aligns with the 38 states and the District of Columbia (DC) that have legalized medical marijuana, of which 23 and DC have decriminalized recreational marijuana and begun regulating it.

It has long been the US government’s policy to deny employment opportunities and security clearance to candidates with a history of marijuana use. However, Reps. Raskin and Mace found this an obsolete practice and sought to rectify the issue. Thus, they pushed for the CURE Act with Rep. Bluemenauer’s help.

The Argument

These representatives argued that many employers have chosen to improve their labor pool by choosing not to drug test for marijuana. According to them, even states that prohibit the substance have employers disregarding the drug test for positions that are not safety-sensitive. As such, this Act would establish that previous or ongoing marijuana use is not grounds for rejecting candidates. The CURE Act also allows previously denied candidates to have their denials reviewed again.

Reps. Raskin and Mace argued that the outdated marijuana policies force the federal government to dismiss talented and enthusiastic candidates. They further claimed that marijuana use is a poor predictor of qualifications or trustworthiness. Many Americans use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes; eliminating them from the pool of candidates significantly limits federal hiring. As a result, they maintained that federal guidelines fall out of line with state laws and popular opinion. 

The CURE Act has received significant support and popularity among several organizations. Examples include prominent advocacy groups, such as the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the Due Process Institute, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, and the US Cannabis Council. This support speaks to the Act’s popularity among those informed on marijuana and criminal record-related issues. 

Should the CURE Act pass, it would allow candidates formerly unable to obtain federal employment to try again. It also encourages marijuana users who felt automatically disqualified to apply for federal positions. This Act would allow government agencies to expand their talent pool, improving the odds of fulfilling crucial roles.

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