Biden Administration Cautions Potential Hires Against Investing In Marijuana Businesses

President Biden is warning applicants seeking positions with his administration that an investment in a marijuana business could be a deal-breaker. Though Biden appeared to be in favor of marijuana decriminalization and potential legalization across the board when campaigning, he is changing his tune now that he is in office. Smoking marijuana, eating marijuana edibles and investing in marijuana businesses might prevent job-seekers form obtaining employment with the president’s administration.

Marijuana In The Context Of Conduct Guidelines

The Biden administration has expanded its conduct guidelines for employees and new hires, setting the stage for the denial of security clearance for those who have a financial stake in companies involved in cannabis.  A candidate’s eligibility for employment might be negatively affected if he or she knowingly invests in stocks or other ventures related to marijuana growth/sales.  The decision to invest in such an enterprise has the potential to reflect poor judgment and a willingness to violate the law.

The conduct guidance update is an example of how the federal government is struggling to define its human resources policies as marijuana becomes increasingly popular.  At the moment, 37 states have legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use.  Though the Biden administration has been more liberal on the use of cannabis and investment in cannabis businesses, critics of the president point to a prior memo issued by his administration stating that the use of the plant would not disqualify an individual from obtaining employment with the federal government.  

Biden backtracked on the memo when terminating the employment of individuals with prior marijuana use.  The Biden administration also rescinded some offers of employment for individuals who admitted to using marijuana.  Though House Democrats have called on Biden to alter his position, his stance has not changed.

Details Of The Policy

According to the director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, the clarifying guidance highlights the fact that investments related to marijuana, be it through a publicly traded stock or a mutual fund, might be made unwittingly.  However, Haines made it clear that the failure to know about a mutual fund holding related to marijuana is not an excuse.  

The guidance also details that even the dissociation or divestment in marijuana-related business activities is also a mitigating factor.  In plain terms, this means even if a prospective hire exits his or her financial position in the company in question, it can be cause for termination.

An Antiquated Policy

President Biden’s failure to follow through on promises to be more lenient on the use and investment in marijuana is a clear indication that he was willing to play the role of a populist to win the highest office in the land.  In fact, some members of the president’s administration are complaining to the media, pointing out the hypocrisy of the rules and insisting they are outdated.  

It is worth noting marijuana businesses based in the United States are not publicly traded on the country’s exchanges as they are not considered to be legal corporations in the context of federal law.  Rather, marijuana businesses based in the United States trade on the Canadian securities exchange.  When asked for clarification regarding the production and sale of products containing marijuana and CBD, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence refused to elaborate.  

Additional guidance might be coming through the pipeline in the weeks and months ahead, potentially paving a path for the normalization of marijuana investing for employees of the federal government.  Even if such clarification is provided, it is too little too late as a whopping 68% of Americans favor legalization of marijuana at the federal level.

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