In the wake of multiple states and the District of Columbia decriminalizing the use of marijuana, the Office of Personnel Management felt compelled to once again remind federal employees that Uncle Sam is less cool with Mary Jane than some states.
“Federal law on marijuana remains unchanged. Marijuana is categorized as a controlled substance under Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act. Thus knowing or intentional marijuana possession is illegal, even if an individual has no intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense marijuana,” the recently released memo stated.
Security cleared professionals already know drug use is a no-go – it remains an adjudicative criteria and current, ongoing use of drugs is one of the few cut-and-dry issues in the adjudicative process today. Thanks to the Bond Amendment, which outlines several specific circumstances in which an individual may not obtain access to classified information – ongoing drug use is one of those circumstances.
But even non-cleared federal employees need to remember the federal prohibition against marijuana – you may lose a non-cleared job due to federal suitability requirements, which may be more strict than adjudicative criteria. Until federal law changes on the issue of marijuana, any drug use – recreational or medical – remains illegal.
“Heads of agencies are expected to advise their workforce that legislative changes by some states and the District of Columbia do not alter Federal law, existing suitability criteria, or Executive Branch policies regarding marijuana. An individual’s disregard of Federal law pertaining to marijuana remains adjudicatively relevant to suitability determinations and relevant for disciplinary actions,” the memo states.
The memo did clarify that each individual would be considered as a case-by-case basis, and the fact remains that the security clearance adjudicative process is subjective. An individual with previous – even recent – drug use in a state where it was legal may be able to mitigate that use by demonstrating current abstinence and an interest in following current laws. Drug use, like other adjudicative criteria, is also likely to be impacted by shifting perceptions and cultural norms. If more states continue to legalize marijuana, and if federal laws ever adjust, cleared professionals and federal employees alike may find themselves able to partake without recourse. For now, the best council for any federal employee or government contractor is to avoid illegal activity – including drug use – wherever you are.