Federal Employees and Marijuana

A survey shows the percentage of federal employees who approve of marijuana legalization is slightly less than that of the general public.

Original Survey on Federal Employees and Legalization of Marijuana

A recent article entitled Federal Employees In D.C. Area Are Buying Loads Of Legal Weed noted that federal employees were buying marijuana at a higher rate than the general public. (See Federal Employees, Smoking Pot and Working in DC)

While the article’s headline above referred to federal employees, the actual survey results reflected responses by a wider group of government employees. The results included federal employees but were not limited to this one group. The results presumably included government employees working for other governments in the Washington, DC area.

Comparing Answers of Federal Employees to “Government Employees” in DC Area

For comparison purposes, FedSmith ran a survey of readers asking the same questions and to compare answers compared to those in the original survey results.

Among government employees in the Washington, DC market, the views on legalization of marijuana varied depending on the category. The results of the original survey by Consumer Research Around Cannabis which surveyed 1,368 people in the Washington, D.C. media market are in the column labeled government employees.

The “Federal Employees” column reflects the survey results from 1,471 people who participated in the FedSmith survey. Approximately 98% of the survey respondents were current or retired federal employees. 1.83% were current or retired military personnel. 0.61% worked for a federal contractor. The geographic location of those responding to the FedSmith survey is not known. No doubt, a large number of respondents are from the Washington metropolitan area due to the large percentage of federal employees there but survey respondents were nationwide and not limited to one geographic area.

The “Government Employees” column below reflects the original survey results. The results were substantially different from the results obtained by Consumer Research Around Cannabis.

A substantially higher percentage of the FedSmith survey respondents approved of legalizing marijuana generally. The largest discrepancy was in medicinal use of marijuana where more than 56% of federal employees approved of approving legalization compared to less than 21% in the original survey.

Survey Results

Percentage of Respondents Approving of Using Marijuana

% Who Approve of Marijuana Legalization Government Employees Federal Employees
Recreational and Medicinal 41.7% 57.72%
Medicinal Only 20.8% 56.08%
Recreational Only 1.5% 28.82%
Disapprove of Both 11.4%
No Opinion 24.6%

Security Clearance and Using Marijuana

Federal employees often have a personal interest on security clearances as a clearance is often required to hold many federal jobs. Losing a security clearance may mean being fired from a federal position.

For the thousands of federal workers whose job requires a security clearance, marijuana is a “controlled substance.” As FedSmith author Robbie Kunreuther observed:

Possession of cannabis still represents contraband at the workplace to agency attorneys and security officials. As with other personal habits/choices that may be construed as security risks (such as driving under the influence of alcohol), marijuana legalization doesn’t necessarily mean that Feds may indulge freely without concern regarding the consequences.

On the question “Should a federal employee have a security clearance removed as a result of using marijuana?” 29.5% answered “yes” and 40.31% answered “no”.

26.78% answered “It depends on the amount of marijuana used or the purpose of the usage of marijuana” and 3.4% were not sure.

Survey Results Compared to Overall Public Support of Marijuana Legalization

The FedSmith survey of federal employees is much more in line with a recent Gallup poll. The Gallup results indicated that 64% of Americans now support legalization of marijuana. The Gallup results were taken at almost the same time as the FedSmith survey. Gallup’s poll results were based on nationwide interviews of 1,028 adults.

This is the highest level of public support Gallup has found for the proposal in nearly a half-century of measurement.

Gallup originally asked American adults about their views on marijuana in 1969. At that time, 12% supported legal marijuana. Reflecting changing public perception, nationwide support for legalization hit 50% for the first time in 2011.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47