It’s 4/20 – but while young people are toking more than before, confusion about drug policies may be tripping up their path to a national security career.

ClearanceJobs and the Intelligence and National Security Foundation coordinated a panel study of 18-30-year-olds to see how drug laws were affecting their path to pursuing a national security career. The good news is the majority of respondents say drug prohibitions won’t keep them from considering a national security career. The bad news – one in five said drug laws were keeping them from considering a career in national security.

Download (Un)Cleared and Confused: Drug Use Confusion Trips Up Young People

That’s bad news in an era when just 6% of the Intelligence Community workforce is under 20, and 20% is under 40. The government needs more young people – but most of them don’t even understand the government’s drug policies. That means a number of young people may be weeding themselves out of a government career.

Just 4% of respondents could accurately identify the government’s marijuana policies, which indicate that drug use prior to applying for a security clearance is one factor of many to help make a security clearance determination. Drug use is not permissible after obtaining a security clearance, however – even in states where it’s ‘legal.’

Policies for drug use for security clearance holders won’t change until Congress changes the law (and we’re not holding our breath). What the IC can do is create better clarity around what policies are when it comes to drug use for security clearance holders and applicants.

When it comes to the factors giving applicants pause, reporting marijuana use was listed above even reporting mental health issues, reporting foreign family members, or taking a polygraph.

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer