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DOJ Begins Issuing Formal Pardon Certificates for Marijuana Possession Convictions, Recent Government Analysis Indicates the DEA is ‘Likely” to Reschedule Cannabis, and New Legislation in California Would Prohibit Employers from Asking About Prior Marijuana Use

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DOJ Begins Issuing Formal Pardon Certificates for Marijuana Possession Convictions

Last October, President Joe Biden pardoned thousands of individuals with federal convictions for marijuana possession. Now, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has begun to issue certificates to those who qualified under the mass order. The certificates are intended to provide proof that recipients were granted clemency under the order and help alleviate some of the issues that accompany a federal conviction – such as problems obtaining housing or employment. While the DOJ did not announce that it was planning to send out the formal documents, some applicants have received a digital copy of their certificate. The pardon certificate program was launched back in March and will benefit approximately 6,500 individuals who have federal cannabis convictions. But, the pardon order is somewhat limited in its scope, as it does not help anyone currently incarcerated for federal cannabis possession and it does not impact anyone at the state level. 

Recent Government Analysis Indicates the DEA is ‘Likely’ to Reschedule Cannabis

A recent analysis by the federal government shows the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is ‘likely’ to reschedule marijuana. A report from September 13 by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) stated that in 2020, the DEA confirmed to Congress that it was obligated to defer to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) when it comes to issues regarding health or science. Many have interpreted this analysis to mean that the DEA would not impede a potentially massive step forward in drug policy reform if and when cannabis is rescheduled. The researchers also note in the report that “(The) CRS is unaware of any instance where DEA has rejected an FDA recommendation to reschedule.” Many policy experts believe that this indicates the DEA will likely support HHS’s recommendation to reschedule marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3 under the Controlled Substances Act. 

New Legislation in California Would Prohibit Employers from Asking About Prior Marijuana Use

A new bill in California would prohibit employers from asking applicants about previous marijuana use. The legislation is headed to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom. The bill would increase job protections for individuals in California and add to the existing safeguards that passed last session that prevent employers from penalizing most employees for off-the-clock cannabis consumption that is in accordance with state law. Exceptions for the policy are for workers in the construction and building industry and any that require federal background checks. Democratic Assemblymember Ash Klara said that employers asking potential applicants about their past cannabis use “not only dissuades candidates from applying for these positions but also leads to situations in which individuals respond dishonestly to get the job.”