Last week the White House announced a policy shift to move marijuana to a Schedule III drug, a downgrade from the Schedule I distinction weed currently holds. The policy shift is a proposed rule, which means it won’t go into effect until after a period of public comment. Even then, the rescheduling simply opens the doors to the broader regulation and oversight of marijuana by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and opens doors for prescription drug use of marijuana and its derivatives.

What the rescheduling doesn’t do is legalize recreational marijuana at the federal level, which is a topic that has also had some congressional movement over the past several years. That distinction is an important one for security clearance holders and applicants, who should avoid moving too fast on any potential marijuana consumption and assuming it won’t have clearance repercussions.

The proposed rule would put marijuana in the same category as drugs like ketamine – which can cause issues for clearance holders if abused or used recreationally, but are not an issue if used under the advisement and prescription of a medical professional.

3 Letter Agency Problems

The rescheduling of marijuana could still spell some complications for three-letter agencies. And no, this time we’re not talking about the Intelligence Community (IC). Rescheduling weed puts it right in the crosshairs of further government regulation, specifically the certification of the thousands of medicinal marijuana dispensaries across the U.S. by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), along with the need for the FDA to approve and regulate marijuana products.

A security clearance holder or applicant could still potentially find themselves facing a security clearance denial or revocation based on medicinal marijuana use, especially if the use pre-dates the policy shift. The government is particularly interested in patterns of behavior – so the fact that an individual was willing to use medicinal marijuana when it was illegal, and now simply finds themselves grandfathered into the rule shift may not be sufficient to justify current use.

The current policy rule is one small step for marijuana users today, however, and one giant leap for the marijuana users of the future. Like all things in the government policy arena, progress is slow. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but in a year or two, medicinal marijuana may have the moment it has been waiting for and security clearance holders and applicants may find themselves able to partake in a medically dispensed marijuana product for the treatment of a variety of conditions.

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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