Pubdate: Thu, 28 May 2015
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Post Company
Author: Lisa Rein


If you live in the District or one of the 23 states that have 
legalized marijuana and you work for the federal government, think 
twice before lighting a joint. Pot is still illegal for you. New 
guidance Wednesday from the Office of Personnel Management is 
unambiguous and stern. Federal workforce rules remain unchanged for 
the roughly 4.1 million federal employees and military personnel 
across the United States. The U.S. government still considers 
marijuana an illegal drug, and possessing or using it is a crime.

"Heads of agencies are expected to advise their workforce that 
legislative changes by some states and the District of Columbia do 
not alter federal law, existing suitability criteria or Executive 
Branch policies regarding marijuana," OPM Director Katherine 
Archuleta wrote in a memo posted on the agency's Web site.

The District and 23 states have authorized adult use of medical 
marijuana. Of those, four states and D.C. also allow recreational 
use. Marijuana became legal in the District in February, allowing 
anyone 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of pot, although the 
drug is still prohibited on federally administered properties.

Archuleta said these changes, a mix of ballot measures and laws 
passed by legislatures, have "raised questions" about whether federal 
employees in these areas are safe to smoke.

The law makes "knowing or intentional" marijuana possession illegal 
for federal employees, even if they do not intend to manufacture, 
distribute or dispense it. Marijuana use also can be a basis for 
firing in some situations, Archuleta wrote.

A 1986 executive order from President Ronald Reagan requiring the 
federal workplace and workforce to be drug-free remains in place and 
applies to medicinal as well as recreational use of marijuana. It 
includes especially strict rules for personnel who either hold 
security clearances or apply for them.

Reagan's directive says: "The use of illegal drugs, on or off duty, 
by Federal employees in certain positions evidences less than the 
complete reliability, stability, and good judgment that is consistent 
with access to sensitive information and creates the possibility of 
coercion, influence, and irresponsible action under pressure that may 
pose a serious risk to national security, the public safety, and the 
effective enforcement of the law."

Most random and routine drug testing within the federal workforce 
occurs with jobs related to national security and law-enforcement, 
while other employees are generally tested only when supervisors have 
reasonable suspicion that they are using drugs at work.

Practically, the government might have a hard time enforcing its 
rules for other employees, since many agencies do not give them 
regular drug tests.

Even outside the federal workforce, the U.S. government has refused 
to relax its marijuana regulations. For instance, medical pot has 
been legal in the District and several states for years, but the 
Department of Veterans Affairs will not prescribe the drug or 
complete paperwork for patients to enroll in state marijuana 
programs, despite heavy lobbying from veterans suffering from 
posttraumatic stress and physical pain.

Archuleta's memo does note that the federal government offers 
prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs for civilian 
employees with drug problems.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom