Bill: Feds could use marijuana in legal states
- By Nathan Abse
- Aug 20, 2018
Some federal employees would be permitted under federal law to use marijuana in states that have legalized the substance, without the risk of losing their jobs under a bill recently introduced in the House of Representatives.
Reps. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) and Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) have sponsored the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act (H.R. 6589). If passed, the bill would bar the government from denying employment or making federal employees “subject to any other adverse personnel action” if they had a positive drug test and lived in a state where marijuana is legal.
The legislation builds on a narrower failed amendment filed earlier this year by Crist that sought to protect military veterans who work for the Department of Veterans Affairs from being fired for state-legal marijuana use, the site notes, adding that the new bill covers civilian federal employees, across departments and agencies and excludes those seeking or who currently have a “top secret clearance or access to a highly sensitive program.”
Advocates, experts embrace bill
“We certainly don’t think federal employees should [continue to] be penalized when they are obeying the laws of their state, many of which permit marijuana use,” Mason Tvert, spokesperson and media relations director for a leading pro-cannabis organization, the Marijuana Policy Project, told FEND.
Another major expert and advocate for rolling back cannabis prohibitions, Sam Kamin—who is also a professor at the University of Denver’s law school and one of the architects of his state’s revamped marijuana laws—told FEND he is in support of such a proposal.
“I am not familiar with the Christ bill, specifically,” Kamin told FEND. “But, the situation that feds are in at the moment is the sort of problem that arises where we now have marijuana legal for medical purposes in about 30 states and for recreational use in about 10 states, while it remains illegal under federal law.”
“This means that marijuana is really being used by a lot of people and in most states—and that’s part of why it really needs to be legal under federal law,” he said.
“We have another bill in Congress, the States Act, which was proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and co-sponsors,” Kamin said. “And under that one we [also] see a promise of strengthening of states and their role on this—one where states would become the ultimate arbiter of what is legal or illegal within their jurisdictions.”
“For now, unfortunately, we have this contradiction—a situation where a supermajority of Americans live in places where marijuana use is legal,” he continued. “Yet if you do use it, the federal prohibition that remains in place means that some people—and especially federal employees—can lose their job or their employment rights in general. In fact, you can lose all sorts of things, if you engage in conduct that is legal under state law but not under the federal law.”
Kamin expressed frustration also with the White House, and its continuing lack of clarity on the policy direction in the area of cannabis.
“Many people have made fools of themselves trying to figure out what this administration is going to do next, on many issues,” he noted. “Here we have at least two rhetorics going at once: On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump spoke about this as a state’s rights issue, meaning the states should lead; yet at the same time Attorney General Sessions continues to [fight against easing federal marijuana prohibitions] as a moral crusade.”
“The conflict between these two drives is very clear,” Kamin said. “But who wins out and who has the upper hand on the outcome? That’s a sort of palace intrigue question, at this point. There is no way to know.”