Oregon Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio want the Biden administration to rethink its stance on employing people who have used cannabis.

Last week, the White House confirmed five staff members had lost their jobs because of prior marijuana use. Several others are working from home while their cannabis history is investigated.

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer speaks at a press conference on restorative justice for cannabis convictions on March 9, 2019.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer speaks at a press conference on restorative justice for cannabis convictions on March 9, 2019.

Meerah Powell / OPB

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Now, Blumenauer and DeFazio have joined 28 members of the U.S. House in calling on the president to reserve that decision.

In a letter sent Thursday, the House members asked the administration to clarify White House policies on cannabis use, and to stop using previous mairjuana use as a disqualifying factor for potential employees.

They noted in the letter that cannabis is now legal in some form in 36 states. They also cited surveys showing that more than 50% of American adults say they have used cannabis at some point in their lives.

“The existing policies have been applied in inconsistent and unfair ways,” the lawmakers wrote. “Those in the upper ranks of your administration won’t face consequences for their cannabis use, and nor should they, but the same standard should be applied across the administration. Repercussions for cannabis use have always been unequal and those with the most power have always faced the fewest consequences. We ask that you don’t allow that pattern to continue within your administration.”

Cannabis remains a Schedule 1 drug under federal law. That means federal regulators consider it to have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, similar to narcotics such as heroin and LSD.

The House members who wrote the letter are part of an effort to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level; the House voted largely along party lines to do that last year. While campaigning for president last year, Biden indicated he was at least open to the idea.

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