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Someone smoking a marijuana cigarette in New York in April 2020. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Federal agencies should not automatically disqualify job applicants for using or possessing marijuana, the Office of Personnel Management said in a memo Friday.

Driving the news: Since more states are legalizing marijuana, OPM said emphasizing marijuana use as a disqualifying factor during the application process is making it increasingly difficult for federal agencies to find or maintain talented workers.

What they're saying: “As more state laws have changed, federal agencies are increasingly encountering individuals whose knowledge, skills, and abilities make them well-qualified for a position, but whose marijuana use may or may not be of concern when considering the suitability or fitness of the individual for the position,” Kathleen M. McGettigan, acting director of OPM, said in the memo, sent to federal agencies.

  • "OPM’s suitability regulations regarding illegal drug use do not permit agencies to automatically find individuals unsuitable for federal service on the basis of marijuana use prior to appointment," the memo added.
  • "Past marijuana use, including recently discontinued marijuana use, should be viewed differently from ongoing marijuana use. The nature and seriousness of the use and the nature of the specific position for which the person is applying are also likely to be important considerations."
  • When "agencies consider the suitability or fitness of an applicant or appointee for a position, the individual’s conduct must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine the impact, if any, to the integrity and the efficiency of the Government."

The big picture: OPM said in a statement that Friday's memo “does not represent a change to OPM’s suitability/fitness policy. However, it does affirm that regulations do not permit agencies to automatically find individuals unsuitable for federal employment based on use or possession of marijuana,” per Washington Post.

  • John Mahoney, a D.C.-based lawyer, told the Post that the guidance "does mark the beginning of a trend in the federal sector of moving toward a less strict standard vis-a-vis marijuana use, and I expect that trend to continue,”

The bottom line: "Heads of agencies are expected to continue advising their workforce that legislative changes by some states and the District of Columbia do not alter Federal law or Executive Branch policies," the memo said.

  • "An individual’s disregard of Federal law pertaining to marijuana while employed by the Federal government remains relevant and may lead to disciplinary action."

Go deeper: New Jersey officially legalizes recreational marijuana

Go deeper

Updated 16 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: Unvaccinated kids must wear masks in school this fall — CDC says schools should still universally require masks and physical distancing.
  2. Politics: New York to lift mask mandate for vaccinated people — CDC director says politics didn't play a role in abrupt mask policy shift.
  3. Vaccines: Sanofi, GSK COVID vaccine shows strong immune response in phase 2 trials — Vaccine-hesitant Americans cite inaccurate side effects.
  4. Business: How retailers are responding to the latest CDC guidance — Delta to require all new employees be vaccinated — Target, CVS and other stores ease mask requirements after CDC guidance.
  5. World: Taiwan raises COVID-19 alert level amid surge in cases — Biden administration to send 20 million U.S.-authorized vaccine doses abroad.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
2 hours ago - World

Biden backs Gaza ceasefire for first time in call with Netanyahu

Biden with Netanyahu in 2010. Photo: Debbi Hill/Pool/ Getty Images

President Biden expressed support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in a call on Thursday evening with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said in a statement.

Why it matters: This is the first time since the beginning of the crisis last Monday that Biden or anyone in his administration has publicly backed a ceasefire. It will increase pressure on Israel to seek an end to the conflict, which Netanyahu has insisted will continue until Hamas' ability to attack Israel is further degraded.

4 hours ago - World

Schumer: "I want to see a ceasefire"

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Monday he wants to "see a ceasefire reach quickly and mourn the loss of life."

Why it matters: Schumer is a staunch defender of Israel and has maintained that Israel should be able to defend itself.