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Top-Secret National Security Clearance But You Still Can’t Smoke Weed?


national security clearance no cannabis

Some wonder how an agency with the tag “intelligence” could make such an unusual or unintelligent decision at such a crucial time.

Employees of the U.S. intelligence agency are currently in a battle of wills with the agency’s board for the right to use cannabis during their off-hours. Due to the federal classification of cannabis in the schedule 1 category, all federal agencies use positive cannabis tests as a valid reason to suspend, penalize, or terminate the appointments of their workers.

At this point, medical cannabis and recreational cannabis are being legalized in various states across the country. One would expect that these agencies would permit the use of cannabis during off-hours or at least reduce the penalties associated with the drug’s use. All jobs that require a security clearance are still working with decades-old regulations. These agencies are yet to see past the use of cannabis to issue security clearances to workers.

The existing policy also affects workers in federal agencies where recreational or medical cannabis is legalized. Even areas like Washington, DC, which have legalized the use of both drugs, are yet to modify this policy.


Still no cannabis clearance!

It is common knowledge that security clearances are issued to staff and contractors of the US government. Anyone involved in activities relating to federal government issues must first be cleared. These clearances show that a person is eligible to gain access to national security information.

Reports from dozens of news outlets worldwide point out that no cannabis clearance is issued to workers with national security clearance. These workers must not consume any form of cannabis-derived drugs or products at any point, either during office hours or during off periods.

Last year, the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, announced that people who have clearance to know details about the nation’s security issues do not have permission to imbibe in cannabis activities. He explicitly said that workers who use cannabis could never hold any level of clearance within the intelligence agency. The unclassified memo was released to clarify the rising confusion over cannabis clearance based on the new cannabis laws being enacted across the country.

Haines believes that illegal and psychoactive drugs should not be used by anyone with full or partial clearance to the nation’s scientific details. The U.S. intelligence issues three levels of security, namely confidential, secret, and top secret. The agency also has a more sensitive category known as Specialized Compartmented Information (SCI). The memo urges all agency heads to ensure all military, civilian, and contractor personnel who have security clearance are not granted access to cannabis. He reminded these agencies that the federal constitution still considered the use of drugs an illegal and punishable act.

The director also highlighted other important issues of concern to the agencies. He wrote that the use of cannabis and other illegal drugs by people with access to national security matters could be a potential breach. He said these drugs could reduce an individual’s alertness, hence raising concerns about how reliable and trustworthy an employee could be. Natural security is a highly sensitive topic, and workers in proximity to its details are in sensitive positions. They must be willing to obey federal rules, laws, and regulations, irrespective of whether or not they have been amended in the state where these offices are situated.

Haines stressed that an autistic worker involved in drug use could be filed with criminal charges.


Zero Ties To The Cannabis Industry

The memo mentioned that workers must have no affiliations with any cannabis company. Haines also implied that prior cannabis use is an essential criterion for determining whether or not an individual belongs in the agency. A person’s frequency of use in the past and the possibility of falling into old habits are relevant. Workers that have in the past used cannabis are required to sign. Attestation forms to demonstrate that future use is unlikely to recur Other applicable mitigations can also be signed depending on the level of security clearance being attained.

Simply put, the memo implies that anyone likely to continue using cannabis and other illegal drugs has no business applying for a security clearance. Also, workers found in the future using illicit drugs might have their security clearance revoked.

This policy is not limited to psychoactive drugs alone. It also extends to CBD products derived from hemp plants. Although the U.S. Congress legalized the consumption of hemp products as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC, the national intelligence agency maintains that most of these products contain more than 0.3% THC. Rather than take chances, all workers are expected to stay away from all forms of cannabis and hemp.

In addition to these rules, all workers in the U.S. intelligence community are prohibited from investing in cannabis companies. The government executive explained that those who aspire to be employed in security clearance positions must not invest in business ventures affiliated with cannabis growers or processors.

The U.S. Department of Defense is also in support of these policies. Reports state that the department is also clamping down on its workers and contractors who have a history of using cannabis or are actively using the drug. A report was published on the department’s website to explain that they are doing this to ensure workers and applicants in the force realize that cannabis is still prohibited at the federal level.


Bottom Line

This clarifying memo was sent out to educate heads of security agencies and their workers on how the habitual use of cannabis and hemp-derived products could impact a person’s security clearance permit. These latest developments from the Biden administration seem to be clashing with current social beliefs and norms. At a time when cannabis is widely supported across the country, it is disappointing that the intelligence agencies refuse to relax some rules to allow at least the medical use of cannabis during off-hours.


If you aspire to be in the employ of the US government, you should stay away from cannabis products and cease investments in cannabis-affiliated companies. At least till federal reforms are passed!






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