GrayRobinson Labor and Employment Section: Anticipating Federal Legalization of Marijuana

October 7, 2022 | Sarah Reiner

On Thursday, October 6, 2022, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation granting a complete pardon to all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed or have been convicted of the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, or in violation of DC Code 48–904.01(d)(1).

Where previously lost, the pardon will restore full political, civil, and other rights. The pardon only applies to the offense of simple possession of marijuana, and not any other offenses related to marijuana or other controlled substances. Additionally, the pardon does not apply to individuals who were not lawfully present in the U.S. at the time of their offense.
Although significant in its own right, this is likely only the first of what will be a series of actions taken at the federal level to deschedule, decriminalize, and begin regulating and taxing marijuana. To that end, President Biden also announced that he is directing federal agencies to review the federal drug classification of marijuana, and asking governors across the nation to issue similar pardons.
Decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level will significantly impact employers across the country. For instance, many employers who operate in states that have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational use, rely on the fact that marijuana remains a banned substance under federal law to continue to bar employees from using marijuana or being under its influence in the workplace.

Whether in a state where marijuana has been legalized or not, employers should begin planning for a change to the federal classification of marijuana, and evaluating the impact that change may have on their workforce and workplace policies and practices.

Contact GrayRobinson Shareholder Sarah Reiner or a member of the Labor and Employment Section