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Federal Employees Reminded They Can’t Consume Marijuana, Even In Areas Where It’s Legal


federal employees marijuanaMarijuana consumption is legal within certain parameters in three states (Colorado, Washington, and Alaska) and Washington D.C.. On July 1st, Oregon’s marijuana legalization law will take effect. Anyone over 21 years old can consume marijuana in a private setting in those areas. That is, unless they are a federal employee. The United States Office of Personnel Management sent out a reminder this week that just because marijuana is legal in some states and D.C., that doesn’t mean that federal employees can partake. If federal employees do, they can (and likely will) be fired. Below is the memo that the feds sent out this week:

Recently, several states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized the use of marijuana, allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and/or for limited recreational use.  These changes to state law have raised questions about whether Federal employees in these jurisdictions may use marijuana as provided for in state law.  As the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Suitability Executive Agent, I am responsible for issuing standards and guidance to agencies to ensure that appropriate suitability determinations are made for positions covered by the suitability regulations in title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, part 731 (5 C.F.R. part 731).  I am also responsible for issuing guidance to agencies on maintaining a Drug-Free Federal Workplace.  The purpose of this memorandum is to set out guidance in these areas.

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.  In addition, Executive Order 12564, Drug-Free Federal Workplace, mandates that (a) Federal employees are required to refrain from the use of illegal drugs; (b) the use of illegal drugs by Federal employees, whether on or off duty, is contrary to the efficiency of the service; and (c) persons who use illegal drugs are not suitable for Federal employment.  The Executive Order emphasizes, however, that discipline is not required for employees who voluntarily seek counseling or rehabilitation and thereafter refrain from using illegal drugs.

Involvement with marijuana may be considered when agencies make suitability determinations for covered positions under 5 C.F.R. part 731.  Drug involvement can raise questions about an individual’s reliability, judgment, and trustworthiness or ability or willingness to comply with laws, rules, and regulations, thus indicating his or her employment might not promote the efficiency or protect the integrity of the service.  However, the individual’s conduct must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Under 5 C.F.R. 731.202(b)(2), criminal conduct — including a violation of the Controlled Substances Act — may be the basis for an unfavorable suitability determination.   In determining whether employment of an individual with a history of criminal conduct related to that individual’s possession of marijuana will protect the integrity or promote the efficiency of the service, the following considerations under 5 CFR 731.202(c) will always be relevant and should be taken into account: (i) the nature and seriousness of the conduct, (ii) the circumstances surrounding the conduct, and (iii) contributing societal conditions.

Under 5 C.F.R. 731.202(b)(6), illegal use of narcotics, drugs, or other controlled substances without evidence of substantial rehabilitation may also be the basis for an unfavorable suitability determination.  However, the focus of this factor is not on whether the individual has been involved in conduct in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, i.e., possession, manufacturing, distributing or dispensing drugs or controlled substances.  Rather, an unfavorable suitability determination citing this factor must establish that the individual illegally used the drug and has not been substantially rehabilitated from his or her use.

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.   Similar guidance regarding national security guidelines was provided by the Security Executive Agent to agency heads on October 25, 2014.  This guidance is attached for your information.

Lastly, it is important to note that it is also the policy of the Federal Government to offer appropriate prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation programs and services for Federal civilian employees with drug problems.  OPM is responsible for developing and maintaining guidance and policy for agencies related to these programs, in cooperation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services and other relevant agencies.  Federal agencies must establish and maintain such programs to assist employees with these problems, consistent with 5 C.F.R. 792.105.


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Johnny Green


  1. While individual bankers steal several millions of dollar and wrecked the life of many middle class people whether it be with investments, real estate, mortgages, pension plans, loans, etc. And they only get a few years in jail and that’s if the government goes after them.

  2. Welcome to post 911 USA.. That’s why so many people think 911 was an inside job because Americans has lost so much freedom since and had made it much easier for government to keep everyone in check.. Not only that they got to invade Iraq and start shit in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

  3. Jonathan Fruchter on

    I love it when the federal government tries to show everyone that they like to try and control everything you do behind closed doors, giving up your human rights isn’t part of the contract, ‪#‎trying‬, I worked at the VA for a year-long temporary appointment from 2013- 2014 and did NOT run into any restrictions trying to protect my own health and consume cannabis, I was allowed to pursue the fulfillment of my happiness based on what’s right. Isn’t that what the VA is supposed to do, protect a veteran’s health?? YES…and they did so in this case by protecting the health of a veteran which is the oath that the agency upholds to its veterans. http://bit.ly/1Qjgb2F

  4. Jonathan Fruchter on

    I love it when the federal government tries to show everyone that they like to try and control everything you do behind closed doors, giving up your human rights isn’t part of the contract, ‪#‎trying‬, I worked at the VA for a year-long temporary appointment from 2013- 2014 and did NOT run into any restrictions trying to protect my own health and consume cannabis, I was allowed to pursue the fulfillment of my happiness based on what’s right. Isn’t that what the VA is supposed to do, protect a veteran’s health?? YES…and they did so in this case by protecting the health of a veteran which is the oath that the agency upholds to its veterans. Top News » BREAKING NEWS: Veteran Allowed to Self-Medicate While Working for Feds at VA Hospital http://bit.ly/1Qjgb2F

  5. it’s all about need , everyone of us will compromise out values at some point , we just hope that that point
    never comes , but for most , it has or will …
    how many of us have worked someplace , where people get fired for alcohol abuse , yet these are still
    those one or two , esteemed , critical employees who can drink all day long …
    This is for something that has been illegal for 80 years in the US (less in other countries) , but has been
    cultivated and used for at least 4000 years . Until Harry Anslinger had to save his ass and everyone else
    in the Fed Narc B., no mention of marijuana being harmful, dangerous or anything negative and many
    positive attributes recorded … Of course , 100 yrs and more , there was a little dissention for weed , but
    in the same manner as the Tolerance movement … very small % ..
    If anything , the Fed Govt . should be pushing for total legalization , such the price gets driven way
    down …. the whole tax thing is a just red herring , if a lid of decent weed is 350 now , what about when the
    same lid is 150 ??? what happens to that other 200 ? IT GETS SPENT DIRECTLY INTO THE ECONOMY ..
    A signifigant reduction in the price of weed will boost the economy far more than the recent lower gas
    prices .. .not to mention that by SMOKING USA GROWN WEED , it will mean a lot of US dollars will
    stop flowing out of the country .. again , good for the economy ..
    should be a nobrainer for Washington .. it’s all about MONEY … AND LOTS OF IT ..
    now get off the dime … garce

  6. not just the Fed , but any company who doesn’t want tokers .. until there is a reliable test , this whole thing is a joke … it’s so
    rediculous , these days marijuana is so mainstream , fodder for commedians , newscasters and politicians joke about
    it .. yet smoke a joint and days later fail a test .. how rediculous is that ?? it should not be too difficult to
    1) determine what level thc is commensurate with “being high ”
    2) raise the test thresholds to allow passing by a weekend toker , if not a daily toker …
    i can fully appreciate not wanting people stoned on the job …
    ok, i can take another argument .. with so many tokers everywhere , then how some so many have jobs ?? take a month
    off smoking for a known test date , or cheat … fact is the number of working age people who smoke at least twice / month is
    well over 50 % … why , then are companies wasting so much money giving the tests ?

  7. I understand your frustrations and I agree but change takes time and as more people in the U.S and the world relize that they have been lied to and they stand up to the ignorance and corruption. Marijuana will truly never be legal until federal legalization. We need better laws covering job protection and other protections on a federal level. I can’t wait untill full legalization in my state I am financially preparing for a job conflict.

  8. Kathleen Chippi on

    nor does ‘legalization’ protect anyone at a state level….In CO, WA, AK and OR one can still lose their: employment/occupational license, child custody, gun rights, unemployment benefits, assets, housing, insurance, banking, student loans, any government aid, ‘privilege’ to organ transplant, ‘privilege’ to adoption, freedom etc….

  9. Kathleen Chippi on

    Press for REPEAL and nothing less….’legalization’ in CO has amounted to over 800 pages of new cannabis laws and extortion level taxation….surely not what the voters intended….

  10. If you need a reminder of the federal government’s cruelty in the war on drugs, just look at the case of Ross Ulbricht. Ross is the creator of the website Silk Road. He created a free, unregulated marketplace in a capitalist country. And for this crime he received a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

  11. Concerned Husband on

    So Drug free workplace means all drugs right …Lol. No silly the ones big pharma profit from are fine. especially the ones that Kill……

  12. If you had lied about your marijuana use, like so many others have done, and became a police officer, you probably wouldn’t have fit in.
    The war on drugs has filtered out those who have a conscience, in favor of those officers that can destroy lives over drugs, and feel no remorse. The war on drugs has given us a cruel, unjust system that has destroyed millions of lives. And to be successful in the criminal justice system, you must take part in that cruelty.

  13. Except the FBI, which has decided to consider applicants possessing needed computer (and hacking) skills who enjoy the benefits of reefer-smoking. Apparently, they couldn’t find anyone with the necessary skills who tested negative…

  14. I think you are being pessimistic, cannabis is at least 420 times safer ….. ***wink wink***

  15. lie detector don’t work, it’s a complete Scam. It’s an Intimidation tool nothing more.

  16. A few years ago I was interested in a career in law enforcement. I wanted to actually protect people and stop real crime with real victims. I don’t have racial, religious, or sexual bias. I’d probably be a very good officer.

    But I can’t be. I made the unholy offense of consuming marijuana within the last 3 years and wouldn’t pass a lie detector test for it. I have no intention of stopping because it’s absurd that it’s illegal.

    I was in the National Guard and would only smoke the week after drill so that I had 2-3 weeks to be clean. I didn’t start smoking at all until I had been in for a couple years. My PT improved greatly. Other soldiers would tell stories of how they consistently spent $200-300 at strip clubs and got completely wasted. 2 soldiers came into drill drunk one time, and the one blew a .09 at 1pm.

    There was a deployment that I volunteered for. They did extra background checks/psych exams and interviews. I decided to be truthful. They didn’t like what I had to tell them about my marijuana use. They said “You’re in the National Guard. You could be called up at any time!” to which I replied “I could be drunk, legally, and incapacitated much worse than being high.” I explained how my smoking wasn’t hurting anyone, and they seriously then said “So I could steal/break your car. It’s not hurting you”

    I didn’t get picked. They did a 100% drug test a few days later because apparently multiple people were truthful. They took the guy who blew a .09 on an extra group with the deployment.

    I look at the constant barrage of stories of police corruption and brutality and am saddened that I will never be able to do the job I want, never be able to help innocent victims, because of the human rights tragedy that the drug war is.

  17. Jordan Shorette on

    I just don’t understand how the fed gov can honestly continue saying and doing these types of things with a straight face, lets have a xmas party and get drunk in the office but your smoking pot at home is risking the entire balance between good and evil, and if we can we will take everything you own and love away from you because you don’t risk your life to get high by using alcohol, btw don’t forget to pay your taxes!!!

  18. All this shows is how, who and what you shold vote for. Press for legalization

  19. ĐΣFΣCŦΣĐ on

    So be a drunk and kill off your liver. Heaven forbid you smoke Cannabis that is 144 times safer! (Drink poison = Job security) ( Smoke = Job loss). Only destructive voice here is Idiocracy. These drug polices are so old and stale. Clearly past government still wants to use authority of old, to trump peoples choice in countries evolution. Evolution never waited for the individual, so its only a matter of time for the progression to happen.

  20. Closet Smoker on

    As long as the Feds feel this way, they will never hire or retain the best employees.

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