The government issued a warning to federal employees that the use of legal cannabis is not sanctioned activity under any circumstance. Regardless of whether employees live in states where cannabis use has been legalized or not, in the eyes of a federal employer, marijuana is still an illegal substance.
The federal government issued a formal, written guidance to all 4.1 million federal workers all across the globe to make its warning loud and clear. The warning came straight from Katherine Archuleta, director of the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
In the guidance, the fact that cannabis remains illegal under federal law was clearly communicated. The plant is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Any employee that knowingly or intentionally engages in the possession of cannabis, regardless of intent is breaking the law and the rules regarding their employment. Any employee caught in possession of the plant is subject to be prosecuted, even in states where it has been legalized.
All federal employees are subject to a higher standard that supersedes recent legislative changes regarding marijuana, according to the issued statement. Federal law regarding the use of marijuana or any illegal substance or drug remains in effect. Many federal workers have sensitive jobs in law enforcement, security and other areas of safety, and therefore they are prohibited from using cannabis even when off the clock.
This is an interesting development considering that several states, including Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska have all recently legalized the recreational use and retail sale of cannabis. Voters in Washington D.C. also legalized possession and cultivation of cannabis, but retail sales are not permitted. Nearly half of the United States have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, and several others have enacted very limited and restrictive cannabinoid specific legislation.
In terms of federal employees, the message cannot be any clearer or more disheartening. Even a single use or exposure to the substance can linger in the body in traceable amounts for several weeks. This could be problematic for many federal workers who are required to undergo routine drug testing.
It has been scientifically proven that the effects of alcohol, certain prescription medications and other drugs last longer and are more harmful to the human body than the effects of cannabis. Many supporters of legal cannabis feel that this issued waring is just the beginning of a long battle that will be used to keep the marijuana industry under strict control.
As long as the federal government continues to turn a blind eye to the many benefits of cannabis, it can continue to profit off the industry by taxing and penalizing users, growers and other key players while simultaneously benefiting from partnerships with large pharmaceutical companies.
Photo credit: K. Archuleta Facebook