Legal Insider: Security clearance holders face risk from CBD use and marijuana investments

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) recently issued new guidance for federal agencies and security clearance holders on marijuana and cannabidiol (CBD) usage, in addition to investments in marijuana businesses. The guidance clears some issues up, but also raises new questions about the use of CBD for security clearance holders.

The three areas covered in the DNI’s new guidance include:

  • Usage of CBD products
  • Use of marijuana
  • Investments in marijuana

Use of CBD

The most important update provided involves the use of CBD products by security clearance holders and applicants. The new guidance discusses the fact that the Agriculture Improvement Act excluded hemp with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3% from the definition of marijuana within the Controlled Substances Act.

Further, the new guidance explains that hemp-derived products that contain greater than 0.3% THC continue to remain illegal and potentially a problem for clearance holders. The memorandum explains that CBD usage can be a problem because the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not certify levels of THC in individual CBD products and that some products may be labeled incorrectly.

The guidance suggests the CBD products that cause a clearance holder to test positive for marijuana use could cause a negative security clearance action. The guidance, however, doesn’t really explain how far security clearance adjudicators will consider regular CBD use that does not result in a positive drug test.

Use of Marijuana

The DNI essentially restates the current standard for prior marijuana use to determine whether such behavior raises a security concern and whether that concern has been mitigated. The guidance states that marijuana usage is a problem, but not necessarily determinative in the security clearance process. It appears that the DNI is trying to make it clear that some prior usage will not be an automatic disqualifier.

Security clearance holders should clearly refrain from any marijuana use in advance of seeking (or while holding) a cleared position. Also, the guidance states that an individual that indicates an intent to continue using illegal drugs in the future (e.g. marijuana) will be disqualified from holding a security clearance. The DNI stresses that such use should be balanced with the overall person’s history (the whole-person concept) when making a decision as to whether to grant or deny a security clearance.

Investments in Marijuana

The new DNI guidance is helpful in clarifying a confusing area for security clearance holders concerning involvement in marijuana businesses and/or investments. We have received many inquiries from clearance holders about where the line is drawn with respect to investing in marijuana investments. The guidance makes it clear that investments in marijuana are still cause for losing a security clearance until Congress changes the Controlled Substances Act, even where states have legalized marijuana.

Basically, the DNI draws the line at whether the individual knowingly is involved in a marijuana investment, business or stock. If the investment happens to be part of a diversified mutual fund, however, there is a presumption that there is no security clearance issue.

We believe, given the rapid changing nature of CBD and marijuana laws that this guidance will be updated again in the next few years.

Contact Us

If you are in need of advice or representation in security clearance matters, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook or Twitter.

Recent Stories

An FCPS employee gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at an Inova clinic in January 2021 (photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools) Fairfax County is looking for artists to contribute to…

Reston Association (courtesy RA) Reston Association’s Board of Directors filled an at-large seat vacated by board member Glenn Small in November.  At a Thursday (Jan. 26) night meeting, the board…

The county’s housing authority has entered into an agreement with Foulger-Pratt (Photo via Fairfax County). A task force will discuss the redevelopment of Reston Town Center North (RTC North) beginning…

Morning Notes

Vehicles turn off Route 123 into Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey) Vienna’s Ilia Malinin Impresses at U.S. Skating Championships — “Even before his leading score of 110.36…

The Ravel Dance Studio will re-open for fall classes 2020. The school will offer in person and virtual online instruction. With over 5000 sq. ft. to social distance the school has added air ionization filtration systems, ballet barres, acrylic dividers, hands free bathrooms, strict monitoring and more.

The Ravel Dance Studio will produce a Nutcracker Ballet Hollywood style video through the Reston Community CenterStage. REGISTRATION online begins August 17.

Submit your own Community Post here for just $99.

Chris Green is one of the DMV’s finest fitness instructors. A Lululemon and South Block ambassador, he is a coach and mentor to so many. He embodies grace, positivity and motivation in ways that no one else can. If we could all learn a thing or two from him, the world would be a much better place. He does so much for others, and does so with a smile on his face 99% of the time.

He recently ruptured his Achilles and has an incredibly long and tough journey ahead. As if COVID hadn’t impacted fitness professionals enough, throw this in the mix and it’s a double, even triple whammy. CG is no longer able to work and do what he loves for the time being because of this and we’d love your support.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here for just $99.


Subscribe to our mailing list