POLITICS

Feds Tell Their Employees To Stay Away From Marijuana, Even In States That Have Legalized

05/28/2015 04:12 pm ET | Updated May 28, 2015

The federal government wants to be clear with its federal employees that might live in states that have reformed their marijuana laws: Marijuana remains illegal, so don't use it.

In guidance issued this week from Katherine Archuleta, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, to the heads of all federal departments and agencies, Archuleta says in no uncertain terms that marijuana use for the more than 4.1 million federal employees across the nation is banned.

"Federal law on marijuana remains unchanged," Archuleta writes in a letter announcing the guidance. "Marijuana is categorized as a controlled substance under Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act. Thus knowing or intentional marijuana possession is illegal, even if an individual has no intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense marijuana."

While four states -- Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska -- as well as the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, and 23 states and the District have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, marijuana remains illegal federally under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. The states that have legalized have only been able to do so because of federal guidance urging federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations.

Federal employees are also subject to the Drug-Free Workplace Act guidelines, which ban the use of any illegal drugs, on and off duty. In general, most of the routine drug testing of federal employees primarily occurs within federal agencies that have personnel with safety-sensitive jobs, like those working in law enforcement or national security.

Archuleta warns that federal employees who disregard federal marijuana law may face disciplinary actions.

"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," Archuleta writes.

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