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House Bill To Remove Marijuana As Barrier To Federal Employment Or Security Clearances Has Moot Provisions, Congressional Budget Office Says



The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is projecting that a bill to protect people from being denied federal jobs or security clearances over past marijuana use would have “negligible” costs for the government—in large part because analysts say provisions on reviewing past denials likely can’t be carried out under current federal record-keeping policies.

The bipartisan legislation from Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) cleared the House Oversight and Accountability Committee in scaled-back form in September.

In general, the amended Cannabis Users’ Restoration of Eligibility (CURE) Act would prevent security clearance and federal employment denials over a person’s past cannabis use. As introduced, it would have applied to current marijuana use as well, though those provisions were removed in committee.

CBO’s analysis largely focused on provisions in the bill that would require agencies, within one year of enactment, to create a process to review each past decision to deny security clearances or job opportunities over cannabis use going back to January 1, 2008.

Current law makes it so “records of personnel eligibility and security clearance determinations are designated as temporary records and can be destroyed after a short period,” it said.

“The General Records Schedule directs that most files related to people who are not issued security clearances are to be destroyed after one year,” the report says. “The period to maintain personnel eligibility records is left to the discretion of each agency and CBO expects that most agencies destroy such records after a few years.”

“For those reasons, CBO expects that most agencies would have a limited capacity to ascertain the reasons for the disqualification of job and security clearance candidates from previous years,” it said.

With that, the office said that costs of implementing the modest reform will depend on each agency’s specific record-keeping policies for security clearance applications. But in all likelihood, only records from the past year or two will be available for review, meaning the bill’s requirement for an assessment going back to 2008 may be largely moot.

“The costs of implementing the bill would depend on how extensive a process each agency would undertake. Because most of the records the agencies would need to review are probably not available, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 5040 would not have a significant cost. Any spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.”

Raskin, the bill sponsor, told Marijuana Moment that he’s “delighted” that CBO “found that the bill will cost taxpayers virtually nothing while ensuring that qualified Americans will be able to serve in our federal government and get their security clearances without being blocked by obsolete marijuana laws.”

“While federal agencies may not have the records available to review every prior hiring decision and security clearance review, the CURE Act will still help thousands of applicants to fairly get jobs they are most qualified for and the security clearances they need to be hired,” he said.

The retroactive review section of the legislation, prior to the committee amendment, also previously would have required agencies to maintain a website so that people could request a review of a decision made in their situation, and they would have needed to “reconsider such individual’s security clearance or employment application” within 90 days if they find that they were denied because of marijuana use alone.

Those components were ultimately removed under the amendment from the committee chairman, Rep. James Comer (R-KY).

Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA), who championed a number of appropriations amendments last year to prevent marijuana testing of federal job applicants, said during September’s hearing that the CURE Act is “just one of many steps that we need to take to really update all of our drug laws.”

The CURE Act represents an expansion of an amendment that Raskin filed as part of a House-passed cannabis legalization bill in 2022. That measure would have only covered security clearances instead of also including overall employment decisions as is the case under the new legislation. The retroactivity would have required a review of denials going back further, to 1971, instead of 2008. The amendment was narrowly defeated on the House floor, however.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Last July, the Senate approved legislation that would prevent intelligence agencies from denying security clearances to applicants solely due to their past marijuana use.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) filed a broader amendment in 2022 that would have prevented employment discrimination based on prior or present cannabis use at any federal department, not just those dealing with intelligence. But the provision was scaled back under a second-degree amendment from the panel’s chairman before being adopted by the committee. And then the reform was ultimately quashed when two GOP senators objected to attaching the broader bill to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on the floor if it included the marijuana language.

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