Washington has quietly shadowbanned certain people from posting help-wanted listings through the state’s WorkSource program, bowing to federal pressure to prevent people from finding work in the cannabis industry. But the state’s restrictions seem to be a bit overzealous, as one hemp activist discovered when he was forbidden from using the system to find childcare for his newborn child.
“We’re trying to hire a nanny, not recruit for the marijuana industry,” says Ben Livingston, an activist and writer whose work includes reporting for The Stranger several years ago. He had a second kid back in February and has been struggling to juggle work and childcare. Last month, he decided to look for a nanny through the state’s WorkSource program, but after navigating through a labyrinth of tax forms and employer documents, his listing was denied because the Employment Security Department said he was recruiting for the pot industry. Which he wasn’t. But even if he was, why should that matter?
Because America is dumb, is the short answer. “Federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic,” reads an email Ben received from the ESD. “The Employment Security Department has signed federal funding agreements under which we agree to expend those funds in accordance with all applicable federal statutes, regulations and policies.”
The “Schedule 1” classification, for those unfamiliar, means that the government considers pot to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” which is, of course, not true—the National Institutes of Health’s own website lists various medical uses for cannabis. The real reason marijuana was banned is racism.
ESD didn’t provide Ben with any way of appealing the decision, but he fortunately knew a lawyer who could escalate the issue to the Attorney General’s office. Once they were involved, ESD backed down and re-instated Ben’s account—though not immediately. According to Ben, they had to track down an IT person who knew how to fiddle with the system’s database because nobody had ever had a ban reversed before.
Ben has filed a public records request to find out why they wrongly decided he was trying to recruit cannabis workers. They said they could get him those records in mid-November. In the meantime, it’s anyone’s guess how many people are unable to post job openings or hire people because ESD’s hands are tied by federal regulation.
And as of writing, the WorkSource website continues to claim that “there is no restriction on who can use WorkSource services.”