Matt Sutton 212-613-8026
New York, NY – In response to the Biden Administration terminating the employment of staffers due to admissions of past marijuana use despite previous conflicting statements saying they would not, Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), released the following statement:
“Change starts at the top. The majority of the policies we have in place today that consistently deny employment to people for drug use, arrests or convictions—and disproportionately impact people of color—started with the federal government. When Ronald Reagan escalated the war on drugs in 1986, one of the initiatives he announced his administration would undertake was ensuring ‘a drug-free workplace at all levels of government and in the private sector.’ These policies have not only failed to reduce drug use or improve safety, but instead actually prevent people from seeking assistance for their substance use out of fear of negative repercussions from their employers. And now, for decades, the drug war has infiltrated workplace policies with drug testing and drug record discrimination.
These exclusionary policies have robbed people of their livelihoods and denied them one of the primary and critical factors associated with a reduction in drug use and potential negative consequences of drug use — access to stable employment.
The flawed and discriminatory idea that people who use drugs cannot be good employees was planted at the very inception of the modern drug war despite any evidence connecting drug use to poor job performance. And that idea unfortunately persists, impacting employment policies – from the White House to the local fast food joint and everything in between.
The Biden Administration announcing that past marijuana use would not be a factor in employment and then, just weeks later, turning around and terminating and denying employment because of that very factor sets a very dangerous precedent. We urge President Biden to stop reverting back to the harmful policies that have robbed so many people of their livelihoods, and instead, end this cycle once and for all.”
DPA recently launched Uprooting the Drug War, a major new initiative that analyzes six different systems through first-hand stories, data spotlights, and reports that take a deep dive into how drug war policies have taken root and created grave harm in the fields of education, employment, housing, child welfare, immigration, and public benefits.