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Can You Get a Government Job with a Medical Marijuana Card?

  • Some government jobs (like military positions) simply won’t allow marijuana users to apply. But for some local, state, and government jobs, it’s possible to get hired (depending on your jurisdiction’s laws). Requirements can also vary by position.
  • At the end of the day, thorough research is key to navigating the job market if you’re using medical cannabis.

Whether you’re trying to get your medical marijuana card for the first time or you’ve been using cannabis as a healing tool for some time, career transitions can bring up important questions about legality and eligibility. It’s time to set the record straight: Can you get a government job if you have a medical marijuana card?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t cut and dried. If you’re looking for federal employment, your options are likely limited since marijuana remains federally illegal. But depending on your state’s marijuana legislation and the employment regulations of your local government (i.e., county and city entities), you could be eligible for a government job if you’re using medical cannabis. The rules can also depend on the type of position to which you’re applying.

In this guide, we’re helping government job-seekers find positions compatible with their healing journey.

Medical Marijuana and Legality in a Nutshell

First, let’s quickly review how governments across the nation view marijuana:

  • Marijuana is federally illegal (most of the time) – As of this writing, marijuana remains a Schedule I Drug. So, it’s illegal to transport marijuana across state lines or possess it on federal property—with one notable exception. Per the 2018 Farm Bill (a federal law), hemp is legal to grow, process, sell, purchase, possess, and consume. Hemp is a high-CBD, low-THC subtype of the Cannabis sativa (marijuana) plant, and products derived from hemp (like CBD gummies) are federally legal, too.
  • States are slowly passing their legislation related to marijuana – Many states have passed laws allowing either the medical or recreational (but not always both) use of medical cannabis.
  • Some states and jurisdictions have decriminalized marijuana – In some states (and even individual cities), it’s still illegal to use, purchase, grow, or possess marijuana, but violations of these regulations are either unpunished or only minorly punished. This legal status is commonly referred to as decriminalization.

Considering all of this, you might be thinking, “Government employment with a medical marijuana card sounds complicated.” Unfortunately, this is true.

Jurisdiction Matters

Luckily, your jurisdiction (i.e., the agency you’re looking to work for) matters a great deal when it comes to the legality of using medical cannabis. Let’s break down how institutions and agencies vary concerning hiring people with medical cards.

City or County Jobs

There are two important elements to note about city or county government jobs:

  • Cities and counties have some power to create their ordinances – While individual cities in the US don’t have the power to legalize cannabis (for recreational or medical use), many have taken steps to decriminalize it—Atlanta, Georgia, and Orlando, Florida, for instance. In states where marijuana is decriminalized, local governments (county and city entities) may be less stringent about drug testing upon hire and throughout employment.
  • Cities or county requirements may contradict state laws – Unfortunately, the reverse can also be true. Even if medical marijuana is legal in your state, your county may still prohibit its employees from using marijuana.

State Government Jobs

People seeking employment with state government agencies (their state’s Department of Agriculture, for instance) should keep the above considerations in mind as well. Just because weed is legal (for medical or recreational use) in your state doesn’t mean that the agencies hiring on behalf of the state can’t create their hiring policies.

This is why, for any job, reading the fine print is critical. We’ll dive into how to approach the job search as a medical marijuana user in a later section.

Federal Government Jobs (Including Military Service)

Luckily (or, perhaps, unluckily for medical cannabis users), federal employment regulations are pretty straightforward. Many federal agencies directly stipulate that applicants who test positive for marijuana won’t be hired (and, in some cases, may even be barred from applying in the future).

The following federal entities (and others) have explicitly stated that medical cards do not exempt applicants from marijuana testing:

With the DOD in mind, you might be wondering: Does having a medical marijuana card disqualify you from military service? While you can read more in our in-depth guide to enlistment and marijuana use, the short answer is that the military does not allow employees to use cannabis, even if they have a medical card.

Position Matters

Let’s say that your state allows medical marijuana. Will you be eligible for every state, county, or city government job? Probably not. Let’s dive into which types of positions typically still require applicants to pass a marijuana screening—even in states with legalization.

Positions That Typically Forbid Cannabis Use

Even in jurisdictions that have passed laws forbidding discrimination against legal cannabis users during the hiring process (New York City, for instance), some positions may still require a drug test for qualification.

In New York City, for example, the law says that agencies may still test applicants for marijuana if they’re applying for certain jobs, including:

  • Law enforcement officers
  • Positions requiring OSHA certifications under New York state law
  • Positions involving the supervision or care of vulnerable persons (including children)

If you’re considering applying for a government job in a state with legalized marijuana use, you should still read the fine print for positions like those listed above and jobs in:

  • Healthcare
  • Education and childcare
  • Construction and labor
  • Commercial driving or public transportation

Since jobs like these require employees to care for others or operate heavy machinery, jurisdictions often have grounds to disqualify anyone using intoxicating substances—even under legal circumstances.

Positions That May Allow Cannabis Use

On the other hand, states or local jurisdictions that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana (respectively) may not require cannabis screening for employees in some positions.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, some potential positions could include:

  • Administrative workers
  • Leadership or elected positions
  • Finance roles
  • Event planning jobs

Since these positions don’t require workers to protect the bodily safety of others or demand the use of heavy machinery, some jurisdictions may not drug test for these positions. However, we can’t guarantee that, so be sure to do your research before applying for a job.

How to Approach the Government Job Search

What does that research look like?

  • Read the fine print: Government agencies often publish their employment requirements and hiring practices. Look for these and read them carefully before applying for a job with a government agency.
  • Talk to the hiring manager: If you have a direct line of communication with the person in charge of hiring, you might feel comfortable asking them about the marijuana policy if you live in a state with legalization. If your state hasn’t yet legalized it, this question might be better presented to a trusted, current employee of the organization you’re looking into.
  • Move on if you need to: If your hiring manager or jurisdiction doesn’t allow applicants to use medical cannabis, don’t force the issue—there is likely another organization that would be grateful for your hard work.

Government Job Alternatives

If you do need to move on from government positions, where should you turn when you’re looking for employment?

Here are some options for workers in various industries:

  • Law enforcement/military/first response: If you’re interested in a career in law enforcement, the military, or a first response organization, consider your private sector options: private security companies and community emergency response contractors, for instance.
  • Education: While public education hiring may not always be friendly to medical cannabis users (depending on their jurisdiction), the same isn’t always the case for private schools, charter schools, or independent tutoring companies.
  • Healthcare: If your local, public hospital doesn’t accept applications from medical cannabis users, consider private sector healthcare jobs in private practice, home health care, or healthcare education/training.
  • Administration: Luckily, nearly every industry hires administrators, from construction companies to manufacturing brands. Whether you work in finance, personal assisting, or QA, you may find your perfect match in the private sector.

Navigate Your Medical Cannabis Journey with TeleLeaf: Your Trusted Healing Partner

The simple truth is that finding a new job can be difficult for people who choose to heal with medical cannabis. Government jobs that accept medical cards can be few and far between, but this isn’t the case for all positions. And if you’re struggling to find government work, you may have ample opportunities in the private sector.

We understand that choosing an unconventional path can pose complications; that’s why TeleLeaf is here to help you navigate every challenge on your healing journey. If you’re ready to finally unlock the recovery you deserve, we can help you discover options that work for your lifestyle and goals—that’s what makes us the best online medical marijuana card service provider in the industry.

Ready to carve out your path with support from licensed providers? Schedule your first appointment with TeleLeaf today.


Sources: 

US Department of Agriculture. Federal Employees and Marijuana Use: What You Need to Know
https://www.fs.usda.gov/inside-fs/leadership/federal-employees-and-marijuana-use-what-you-need-know

Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug Fact Sheet: Marijuana/Cannabis
https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Marijuana-Cannabis-2020_0.pdf

US Food and Drug Administration. Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill
https://www.fda.gov/news-events/congressional-testimony/hemp-production-and-2018-farm-bill-07252019

University of Georgia Alexander Campbell King Law Library. Survey of Marijuana Law in the United States: Decriminalization of Marijuana
https://libguides.law.uga.edu/c.php?g=522835&p=3601051

Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI Employment Eligibility
https://fbijobs.gov/sites/default/files/2023-04/guide_eligibility.pdf

Central Intelligence Agency. Ask Molly: Illegal Drug Use and Employment at the CIA
https://www.cia.gov/stories/story/ask-molly-illegal-drug-use-update/

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