Your Career on Marijuana


Marijuana, despite being legal or decriminalized in some states, is still classified as a Schedule I drug by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and considered an illicit substance. This includes all parts of the plant, whether it is THC (the chemical that gets you high) or CBD (the chemical that calms you down). The DoD’s Drug-Free Workplace policy, 24 CFR 223.5prohibits use by all its personnel. Thus, there are consequences for using it, especially if you’re a Soldier, DA Civilian or government contractor.

While consequences for illegal marijuana use vary, all can be detrimental to your career. For Soldiers they include punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ): loss of rank, forfeiture of pay, restriction, and extra-duty. Soldiers may also face a number of administrative actions including bar to re-enlistment, loss of the use of tuition assistance for college or technical training, loss of opportunities for attendance at military schools, and suspension or loss of security clearance. Civilian personnel and contractors are not subject to the UCMJ, but they can still face career-impacting administrative actions. The most serious is the suspension or loss of a security clearance. Often, the ability to perform duties is tied to this clearance, so the loss of a clearance could mean the loss of a job or contract. Other considerations include impacts to performance reviews or evaluations, and loss of time spent dealing with law enforcement and legal authorities. A short-term high can have long-term career impacts.

Despite the increased popularity, marijuana currently has no accepted medical use and, furthermore, it has a potential for abuse and adverse physical and psychological effects such as--

  • Impaired memory and body movements
  • Changes in mood
  • Breathing problems (especially if you’re smoking it)
  • Elevated heartrate
  • Possible deadly effects if taken with alcohol or cut with other substances

Attempting to detox before an expected drug test won’t do you any favors. Over-the-counter kits and drinks don’t actually flush your system; rather they try to fool the test instead, and you’ll still test positive for substances. Not to mention, altering your test sample in any way can also get you in trouble. According to NIH, “Some juices used in “detoxes” and “cleanses” that haven’t been pasteurized or treated in other ways to kill harmful bacteria can make people sick” and there’s no definitive proof that they will even work.

So, before you light up on 4/20*, remember that there’s a lot that could go up in smoke.

*April 20, or 4/20, is known as “weed day” among marijuana smokers.