US intelligence agents get national security clearance, but not cannabis clearance

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At a time when employees are fighting for the right to use medical marijuana and recreational marijuana during their off hours, there’s one area of ​​employment that hasn’t changed: intelligence agency jobs. of the country that require security clearance. These agencies view current marijuana use — or, in some cases, even past marijuana use — as grounds to disqualify people from holding a security clearance.

The policy applies even if people work in a state where marijuana is legal for recreational and medical use, or in Washington DC, which has legalized both.

Related: Legalized Cannabis Changed the American Workplace

No cannabis clearance for those with national security clearance

In one unclassified memo published in late 2021, Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence, directly addressed the use of illegal drugs by those who are authorized to know our nation’s secrets. Or, at least, some of our nation’s secrets. There are three security clearance levels: confidential, secret, and top secret. There is also a separate category called Specialized Compartmented Information (SCI).

You cannot hold any license level if you use marijuana. In his memo, Haines encouraged all agencies to “remind civilian, military and contract personnel” who have access to classified information about illegal drug use under federal law.

Marijuana remains a federally illegal Schedule I drug. In his memo, Haines also raised other concerns.

“The illegal or misuse of controlled substances can raise security concerns regarding an individual’s trustworthiness and dependability to access classified information or to hold a sensitive position, as well as their ability or willingness to comply with laws, rules and regulations,” he wrote. . “Drug involvement may raise similar personal and criminal conduct concerns.”

Related: Canada leading the way on cannabis and mental health in the workplace

Even past use is a problem

In his memo, Haines also writes that past marijuana use may be “relevant” in determining whether someone is a security clearance item but not “determinative.” Among the factors taken into account are the frequency of use and “whether the individual can demonstrate that it is unlikely that future use will recur, including by signing an attestation or other appropriate mitigation measure”, a wrote Haines.

In reviewing the memo and the marijuana issue, the government executive to put clearly: “Anyone who indicates an intention to continue using illegal drugs in the future – including marijuana – will be disqualified from holding a security clearance.”

The ban on the use of marijuana also extends to hemp-derived CBD products. The US Congress has legalized hemp products if they contain less than 0.3% THC, the chemical ingredient in cannabis that causes the high. However, the position of the national intelligence community is that some products may contain more than 0.3%, which also makes them illegal.

Additionally, those aspiring to security clearance jobs should not invest in stocks or business ventures related to marijuana growers and retailers. According to Government Executive, those who do so may find that their “jurisdictional determination may be adversely affected”.

The Clearinghouse Jobs website reports that the Department of Defense is also cracking down on employees and contractors who use marijuana if they previously had a security clearance that is no longer active.

The website reports that they do this under the theory that candidates knew from previous years’ safety briefings that marijuana use is still federally illegal. They added, “This tough new stance, which boils down to ‘you should have known better,’ is a curious approach at a time when societal norms and the Biden administration appear to be heading in the opposite direction.”

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