Although medical marijuana has been legalized in 23 states throughout the U.S. and in the District of Columbia, if you happen to be one of the approximately 4.1 million federal employees or military personnel, America is still a no-smoking zone for you.
Katherine Archuleta, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, released a memo to the heads of federal agencies recently that detailed regulations for employees of the federal government in regards to the use of medical cannabis. In the memo, Archuleta states that although medicinal marijuana has been legalized on the state level, the U.S. government considers it an illegal and prosecutable substance. Archuleta has said that changes at the state level, through ballot measures and legislature votes, have brought about questions whether it’s okay for federal employees to smoke.
“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 adjudicative relevant to suitability determinations and relevant for disciplinary actions,” detailed Archuleta.
According to the memo, federal employees are still subject to a 1986 “Drug-free Federal Workplace” executive order by then-President Ronald Reagan that banned employees from illegal drug usage on or off duty. The order applies to medicinal and recreational marijuana use and includes rigid guidelines for employees who hold security clearances.
Reagan’s directive states, “The use of illegal drugs, on or off duty, by federal employees impairs the efficiency of federal departments and agencies, undermines public confidence in them…and evidences less than the complete reliability, stability, and good judgment that is consistent with access to sensitive information and creates the possibility of coercion, influence, and irresponsible action under pressure that may pose a serious risk to national security, the public safety, and the effective enforcement of the law.”
Debra D’Agostino, founding partner of The Federal Practice Group, has been following what’s been going on with federal employees regarding their use of cannabis.
“Employees know they could get popped for a random test,” she said. “But it seems like it’s infrequent enough where people aren’t concerned about it — that’s why these issues pop up.”
In the past six months, D’Agostino said her office has dealt with a handful of cases where federal employees were seeking advice after testing positive for marijuana.
“Very little has changed in how the federal government has dealt with marijuana despite…how people perceive marijuana usage,” she said. “Currently we are spending money to adjudicate these cases and it seems like a waste of money where there isn’t another concern for performance or national security.”
The federal government also does not plan to relax its stance on cannabis outside of the federal labor force. The Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides patient care and federal benefits to veterans and their dependents, will not prescribe marijuana or complete paperwork for patients to enroll in state marijuana programs, despite heavy lobbying from veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and physical pain.
In addition, Archuleta also wrote that marijuana can be the basis of terminating an employee. This ruling has caused ire in many places where medicinal marijuana has been legalized. In Denver, the Colorado Supreme Court is in the process of deciding if a quadriplegic employee of a privately-owned company had the right to be fired for testing positive for prescribed cannabis. The case is important to the medical cannabis community because it will set a precedent on whether private companies that reside in legalized states may allow employees to use pot off the job, without worry of drug-testing.
Are you a federal employee that uses medical cannabis? Share your experience with us in the comments.