Federal Marijuanna Pardons Create Potential Employer Headaches

Employers whose policies disqualify applicants from employment based on past Marijuanna convictions need to prepare to respond to applicants presenting certificates of pardon of their prior federal conviction of simple Marijuanna conviction received under President Biden’s October 6, 2023 Presidential Proclamation on Marijuana Possession.

Biden Marijuanna Pardons

The Proclamation provided a blanket pardon for all prior federal and D.C. (but not state) offenses of simple possession of marijuana. 

Those who were pardoned on October 6, 2022, are eligible for a certificate of pardon. Consistent with the proclamation, to be eligible for a certificate, an applicant must have been charged or convicted of simple possession of marijuana in either a federal court or D.C. Superior Court, and the applicant must have been lawfully within the United States at the time of the offense. Similarly, an individual must have been a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident on October 6, 2022. Those convicted of state marijuana offenses do not qualify for the pardon.

On March 3, 2023, the Justice Department announced the application process for issuing certificates of the pardons to pardoned individuals. This process allows pardoned individuals to get prof of their pardons to present to employers and others. Consequently health care and other businesses should prepare to respond to applicants presenting these certificates. 

When he made the pardon proclamation, President Biden directed the Justice Department to develop a process for individuals to receive their certificate of pardon. On March 3, 2023, the Justice Department issued an application for eligible individuals to receive certificate of proof that they were pardoned under the Oct. 6, 2022, proclamation by President Biden. 

The online application available on the Office of the Pardon Attorney’s website: Application for Certificate of Pardon allows eligible persons to submit documentation to the Office of the Pardon Attorney and receive a certificate indicating the person was pardoned on October 6, 2022, for simple possession of marijuana.

President Biden said when making his proclamation he intended the pardons to “help relieve the consequences arising from these convictions.” The President’s pardon, effective Oct. 6, 2022, may assist pardoned persons by removing civil or legal disabilities such as restrictions on the right to vote, to hold office or to sit on a jury that are imposed because of the pardoned conviction. Proofs of pardon also may help those pardoned to obtain licenses, bonding or employment.

Potential Employer Challenges

The pardons are likely to create concerns for health care and other employers who currently disqualify applicants from eligibility for employment based on drug related criminal conditions where the employer remains subject to statutory, regulatory, contractual or other requirements prohibiting employment of workers with prior or current history of drug offenses or use. 

As a starting point, employers should carefully review their own existing policies as well as any statutory, regulatory contractual requirements applicable to their workforce to assess the implications of the pardons on the employment eligibility of a pardoned worker. Ambiguities are likely to arise under many policies, particularly where a hugyirunof drug use or possession is disqualifying without a requirement of a conviction. 

Employers contemplating continuing to disqualify pardoned applicants for safety or other reasons probably should seek the advice of legal counsel. Some pardoned applicants might argue an employer’s reliance on a pardoned criminal drug conviction constitutes prohibited discrimination based on a history of prior drug dependence that violates the Americans With Disabilities Act or other discrimination laws. Statements made by President Biden and others within the Administration suggest the Equal Employmrnt Opportunity omission might support these or similar arguments in furtherance of promotion if President Biden’s policy of facilitating opportunities for employment for individuals recovering from substance abuse. 

Employers also may struggle with equity questions raised by the pardoning of federal convicts but not those with state convictions. 

Employers should monitor Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and other guidance and seek advice of experienced legal counsel to develop and administer hiring policies to mitigate potential exposures. 

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297

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About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 35+ years of workforce and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, scholarship and thought leadership.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 35 year career has focused heavily on working with employer and other staffing and workforce organizations, health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. As an ongoing component of this work, she regularly advises, represents and defends health care, education, DOT, government contractors and a wide range of other employers about drug testing and drug free workplace, discrimination, safety and other employment, benefit and other Human Resources, Guideline Program and other compliance, risk management and other internal and external controls in a wide range of areas and has published and spoken extensively on these concerns.

Ms. Stamer also is widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on workforce, compensation, and other operations, risk management, compliance and regulatory and public affairs concerns.

For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here

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