Marijuana Usage and the Pursuit of a National Security Career

Last updated: May 29, 2023

Under federal law, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Despite more than 21 states legalizing marijuana, it remains illegal at the federal level. While it may be legal in the state to partake in marijuana use, an individual may still face federal criminal charges for using, cultivating, or selling weed under federal law. Under the Supremacy Clause, federal laws take precedence over state laws and even state constitutions.

Although social norms and state laws have changed their viewpoints on marijuana usage, federal laws have not. Ongoing marijuana usage is still an issue for some security clearance applicants. As a result, security clearance careers are either not pursued or denied security clearances.

A survey conducted by and the Intelligence and National Security Foundation found that approximately 4% of young professionals surveyed indicated that they were not familiar with the policy of marijuana usage for applicants and current security holders. About 15% of participants indicated that they are not willing to abstain from marijuana to obtain a security clearance. Lastly, 30% indicated they would avoid a career in national security due to their current or prior marijuana usage.