Attitudes concerning recreational drugs are rapidly changing throughout the U.S. Most states have legalized marijuana to a certain degree, but fifteen of them and the District of Columbia have fully legalized the drug for recreational and medicinal use.
Oregon voters took the next most radical step in a 2020 referendum to decriminalize drug possession in small amounts for heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, and other Schedule I drugs. California is now even considering a bill that would decriminalize psychedelics, as the District of Columbia did in 2020.
While decriminalization doesn’t make it legal to possess these drugs – one merely wouldn’t be considered a criminal in their state for doing so – the trajectory that marijuana has taken in the past decade shows that it’s not impossible for certain other drugs to follow a similar path.
Regardless of these changes in state drug laws, federal laws that outlaw them – particularly the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 – remain the same. That can have dire consequences for someone who uses or has used drugs legalized or decriminalized by their state if he or she also needs security clearance to continue their federal employment or accept a new position in the government.
Using or possessing drugs deemed illegal by the federal government can be perceived as a sign that an applicant or current employee is untrustworthy or willing to engage in activity that contradicts the purpose of their employment. Effectively, the federal government considers current and even past involvement with drugs a liability.
This is why it’s advisable for federal government employees and job applicants to avoid using drugs outlawed by the federal government, even if their state governments have legalized them. For the same reasons, avoiding business interests in facilities that grow, process, distribute, or sell any controlled substance, particularly marijuana, is also a good idea even if the state permits such business activities.
Do You Have a Concern about Your Security Clearance?
If you are a federal employee or job applicant and have concerns about obtaining security clearance for a drug-related reason, you can reach out to Claery & Hammond, LLP for legal counsel.
After learning more about your situation, our attorneys may be able to offer legal options that can help you increase your odds of passing a security clearance. If your initial application is denied, we can also provide the legal support and services you need to appeal the decision.