How Will the New Federal Marijuana Pardon Impact Company Policies?

by | Oct 27, 2022 | HR Policies

President Biden recently announced a federal pardon for individuals convicted of minor possession of marijuana. This pardon will affect around 6,500 Americans and applies to everyone except those in the U.S. military.1Over two-thirds of voters’ support issuing pardons to people with nonviolent federal marijuana convictions. This makes up of forty percent of those who support Biden’s actions and 25% who are somewhat in support. Younger voters from, Gen Zers and Millenials, were especially in support of the pardons.2

“The impact for employers is that when you are doing a criminal background check, if the person has a conviction under federal law for marijuana possession, I think that the employer cannot and should not consider that anymore,” says Kathryn Russo, employment attorney with Jackson Lewis in Melville, NY.6 Employers requiring a background check under federal law is not illegal unless done in a discriminatory manner, according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, the workplace civil rights agency advises against using information from past criminal records if it is not job-related. Job seekers who have previously been rejected for marijuana offenses will now have a clean slate and previous drug tests or criminal charges for marijuana that prevented them from being hired cannot be used against them after the pardon.3

Currently, the White House does not require employers to change how they’ve handled certain criminal records, especially those that could interfere with the workplace. Pardoned convictions at a federal level will no longer be available for employers to consider. Insurance experts say it is too early to see if this will drive up insurance rates or not for companies.4

This Federal action will not affect how employers are recruiting, but it will create more opportunities for some job seekers. This includes those not only denied employment but also housing and educational opportunities due to minor marijuana offenses.5

With this signal that the move to legalize marijuana on the Federal level is forthcoming, and that state and local policies are also changing in favor marijuana legality; employers need to pause and consider what they want their marijuana policies to be and be sure they keep in step with regulatory changes.






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