Attorney Debra D’Agostino - a Partner at The Federal Practice Group - was recently quoted in an article discussing marijuana use by federal employees. The article - which was published in The Hill - focuses on the dichotomy between federal and state laws for recreational marijuana.
In November of 2014, residents in the District of Columbia voted to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults age 21 or older. Last month, the law took effect. While marijuana legalization has been supported by a majority of Americans across the country, marijuana legalization in our nation’s capital and several states has raised unique issues about where federal workers stand in the eyes of the law.
According to the article, an executive order from the Reagan administration prohibiting federal employees from using illegal drugs on or off duty still applies to federal workers in DC and states where recreational marijuana is now legal. This is because federal law still considers marijuana an illegal substance.
The conflict between local and federal laws has created concern for workers who believe they may face random screenings. In the article, Attorney D’Agostino shares her experience discussing the concerns of federal workers who seek advice regarding the new marijuana laws.
According to D’Agostino, the government is actively pursuing cases involving workers who test positive for marijuana in places where pot is legal. She tells The Hill:
Very little has changed in how the federal government has dealt with marijuana despite the national shift in how people perceive marijuana usage. Currently we are spending money to adjudicate these cases and it seems like a waste of money where there isn’t another concern for performance or national security.
While we wait for trends to shift, it remains clear that federal workers can face repercussions for testing positive for pot, even if they live in DC or a state where recreational marijuana is legal. You can read more about the issue and Attorney D’Agostino’s comments here.