Bill Would Protect Jobs of Federal Employees Using Marijuana

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By on July 29, 2018 in Human Resources with 0 Comments

Photograph showing a close up of the top part of a marijuana plant

Federal employees in certain states would legally be allowed to use marijuana without risking termination from their jobs if a new bill were to become law.

Marijuana is currently illegal at the federal level which means that any federal employees using it are subject to termination, even if they work or reside in a state in which it is legal. The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act (H.R. 6589), introduced by Congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL) and co-sponsored by Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-GA), would change that.

The bill would bar the government from denying employment or making federal employees “subject to any other adverse personnel action” if they had a positive drug test and lived in a state where it was legal.

The bill contains a couple of exceptions, however. One is if there was “probable cause to believe that the individual is under the influence of marijuana” in the workplace. Another is for federal employees applying for or holding positions involving “top secret clearance or access to a highly sensitive program.”

Marijuana Use and States’ Rights

A growing number of states have made marijuana legal, either for recreational and/or personal use. Marijuana is legal for recreational use in the District of Columbia, home to many federal agencies and their employees.

The map below shows the states where marijuana is and is not legal as of July 1, 2018.

Map of the United States showing which states have legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use as of July 2018

Map and data courtesy of Statista

Because it remains illegal at the federal level, it makes marijuana a tricky issue. Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department allowed states to make and enforce their own laws for marijuana, however, earlier this year, the Justice Department under the Trump administration announced that it was reversing this decision and directed all U.S. attorneys to “enforce the laws enacted by Congress and to follow well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana activities.”

There has been some effort in Congress to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level amid the growing number of states that have legalized it in some form.

Last month Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act (S. 3174) which would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances at the federal level. It has not advanced beyond introduction as of the time of this writing.

Until any definitive legislation is passed, the bottom line is that it remains illegal for federal employees to use marijuana and could subject them to disciplinary action.

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.