Marijuana use/federal job Forum

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Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 14, 2019 1:04 pm

I was wondering if anyone had any information about the federal hiring process (specifically US atty offices/DOJ) and what they ask about past drug use. I am planning a trip with friends (all 21+) to a state that has legalized cannabis, and am considering using it recreationally while there. I also know that there are questions about past drug use on job forms with the federal government. Can I do this and still get hired in the government? I have had trouble finding good information on this.

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by dvlthndr » Mon Oct 14, 2019 1:32 pm

I doubt you are going to get any solid answers since government offices are pretty opaque about it. But using any marijuana is not a good idea if you want to land a federal government job in the near future.

Consider, for example, that the FBI policies for new hires (available at https://www.fbijobs.gov/working-at-fbi/eligibility) bars employment from anybody that used marijuana in the past three years regardless of where it was, what the legal status what, and whether or not there was a medicinal purpose.

That's just the official policy for one part of the government. But I'm guessing that the "unofficial" bar is going to be set higher for more competitive positions within the government (i.e., any use post-college or within the last ~7-10 years could potentially be a mark against you if you were trying to become an AUSA in certain offices). You can search around TLS and find stories of people being asked point-blank if they have used marijuana in the last XYZ years when applying for positions.
Last edited by QContinuum on Tue Oct 15, 2019 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 14, 2019 1:34 pm

AUSA here. You will get asked about illegal drug use at least in the 7 years preceding your background check and possibly ever. Marijuana still counts because it’s not legal federally. Post-bar drug use will likely be a deal-breaker; one occasion of recreational use before law school probably won’t sink you, but could cause issues if you want to intern for a USAO during law school (you’ll have to answer the same questions re: drugs). Use during law school could be an issue as well, though not an automatic deal-breaker.

This may change under future administrations but for the moment that’s my understanding.

TigerInMyTank

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by TigerInMyTank » Tue Oct 15, 2019 1:22 pm

This might be a dumb question but how would the FedGov or any AUSA know whether or not I used marijuana? If I can pass a drug test and simply say I never have, wouldn't I be fine?
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nixy

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by nixy » Tue Oct 15, 2019 1:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:This might be a dumb question but how would the FedGov or any AUSA know whether or not I used marijuana? If I can pass a drug test and simply say I never have, wouldn't I be fine?
Well, first, starting your time with the feds by lying just isn’t a good look.

But second, the background check involves retired FBI agents going out and interviewing people who’ve know you from all the different contexts of your life - work, school, socially. You will give them names but they’re not limited to those names. If they happen to talk to one of the people you go on this trip with and this person doesn’t feel like lying to the FBI (and lots of people won’t), they could find out quite easily.

And lying about what you’ve done is ALWAYS always always worse than what you actually did. (The idea is: if you’re going to lie to make yourself look better for this job, how trustworthy will you be on the job?)

I don’t know if you’re an 0L (but sounds like it) and I know this is kind of a foreign concept to non-lawyers, but being open and candid and forthright in such matters is a bedrock principle of the legal profession. The question isn’t “would anyone ever know if your smoked pot,” it’s “did you ever smoke pot.” The coverup is ALWAYS worse than the crime.
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yodamiked

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by yodamiked » Tue Oct 15, 2019 2:01 pm

Anonymous User wrote:This might be a dumb question but how would the FedGov or any AUSA know whether or not I used marijuana? If I can pass a drug test and simply say I never have, wouldn't I be fine?
You're asking if you can lie on an application/background check and get away with it.I hope you understand the many reasons why this is concerning, especially for someone who wants to be a member of the bar.

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OakBrook2021

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by OakBrook2021 » Tue Oct 15, 2019 2:01 pm

How would law school use be a dealbreaker if it's been more than 7 years? I thought that SF-86 is just 7 years back, and some offices ask if you've ever done drugs (but not specific times, drugs, and dates past what SF-86 asks)? Can you give concrete examples of what a more strict USAO drug policy would look like @AUSA anon?
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cavalier1138

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by cavalier1138 » Tue Oct 15, 2019 2:39 pm

Hot take: If you want to smoke pot once more than you want this job track, you probably don't want this job track very much.

There's nothing morally wrong with smoking pot. And maybe the rules will change. But for now, you know what the rules are. So instead of trying to think up creative ways to smoke up and then lie about it, just don't do it.

letmelearnlaws

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by letmelearnlaws » Thu Oct 17, 2019 2:23 pm

What's the ramification if you say "yes" on the SF86 question about use in the past 7 years? Is it auto-rejection or does it depend on the context?

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Mar 20, 2022 4:24 am

letmelearnlaws wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 2:23 pm
What's the ramification if you say "yes" on the SF86 question about use in the past 7 years? Is it auto-rejection or does it depend on the context?
bumping this in light of new-ish new guidance

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Mar 20, 2022 9:20 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Mar 20, 2022 4:24 am
letmelearnlaws wrote:
Thu Oct 17, 2019 2:23 pm
What's the ramification if you say "yes" on the SF86 question about use in the past 7 years? Is it auto-rejection or does it depend on the context?
bumping this in light of new-ish new guidance
I don’t think saying yes re: marijuana in the last 7 years was ever really an auto-reject. It still isn’t, but I think it’s still going to depend on when you last used and the frequency of your use (the guidance is an improvement but still has a lot of loopholes).

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 17, 2022 11:01 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Mar 20, 2022 9:20 am
I don’t think saying yes re: marijuana in the last 7 years was ever really an auto-reject. It still isn’t, but I think it’s still going to depend on when you last used and the frequency of your use (the guidance is an improvement but still has a lot of loopholes).
There are two offices that have to approve your USAO application in light of any past drug use: (a) the FBI as part of your national security clearance, and (b) the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM). It might surprise you that the OARM is more pesky to deal with on this topic than the FBI. The FBI will literally not give one damn if you were the third wheel to Cheech and Chong if it was more than 7 years ago. They don't ask, they don't care, and they take the time scope of their inquiry into you seriously. It is 7 years, period. This is due in part to the federal government's broader loosening of national security clearance standards that came both from the Biden administration and also pressure from various quarters within Congress. Marijuana is still a federally criminal narcotic, so don't misunderstand the nuance in policy shifts here by getting too enthusiastic. But the 7-year scope is one effort to be smarter about young people joining the workforce.

If you did smoke weed within the last 7 years, your odds in the FBI process are reduced but you probably still have a good shot at approval if your weed use does not indicate habitual patterns, AND if you can demonstrate 100% honesty as you are asked about this subject.

As for the OARM, they are more of a pain in the ass because they do not respect the 7-year time scope. If you smoked any narcotic after becoming a licensed attorney, ever, they force you to disclose it on a form. This means one puff must be disclosed. If you did smoke that one puff, no one has any idea what their formulation is of who gets approved and who gets denied. The one-puff guy is probably safe. Really old uses that were isolated and not habitual are probably safe too. Anything beyond isolated uses could mean trouble. That is the current policy that appears to be untouched by the broader policy shifts that apply to national security clearances across all federal government agencies. Biden administration influences are probably not as significant here as Merrick Garland's personal views and preferences.

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Nov 02, 2022 1:18 pm

Anyone have insight into whether DOJ is still auto-dinging for post-bar mj use if it's an isolated incident in a state where it's legal? Seems like the last admin was stricter on mj, but if the new admin is attempting to de-schedule cannabis wondering if things are changing internally.

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Nov 02, 2022 1:46 pm

So I’m probably the person who originally reported the auto-ding for post bar job use, and I will point out that I was told that as a fairly recent grad. I don’t know if the issue is literally all post-bar drug use, or if it was post-bar because for me, post-bar was close enough in time to be an auto-ding. So I don’t want that to be taken too far, I think it’s still on a case by case basis.

That said, I haven’t heard anything about easing up on mj use, but I haven’t been involved with hiring lately.

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Nov 03, 2022 12:11 am

AUSA here. Disclosed post-bar marijuana uses on a handful of occasions 10+ years ago. No habitual use though. USAO application was reviewed this year, 2022. OARM made me sweat and asked me a bunch of obnoxious questions, but then approved me.

The best advice I can offer is absolutely do not engage in any bullshitting. Disclose everything. Don't make stupid excuses. In 2022, a few joints from back in the day that do not show habitual marijuana use or a love of weed are probably not going to exclude you.

If you were a habitual user, just give up on DOJ. Your life will become hell if you even try to make it, because assuming you successfully lie about your past use, you will then be living in constant fear of (a) being polygraphed for some random reason and/or (b) criminally charged with perjury for lying on a federal form. So just forget about it and move on to a different career.

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Nov 05, 2022 1:42 pm

Any idea if these rules apply to the FPD? Temperamentally, I assume they'd be more understanding.

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Nov 05, 2022 3:27 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Nov 05, 2022 1:42 pm
Any idea if these rules apply to the FPD? Temperamentally, I assume they'd be more understanding.
Haha... good question. You should first figure out whether the FPD requires a security clearance background investigation. If it does, there's some federal agency that will have you fill out the standard SF-86 form. The FBI does this for USAO hires, but I assume that's not the case for FPD. It could be the "DCSA" or some other agency.

Either way, the SF-86 requires strict disclosure of narcotics use within the last 7 years only. If you have such disclosures, I wouldn't worry too much about them if they show little more than occasional recreational use. If you were a habitual user doing it weekly or more, though, and you seem like someone who is still doing it, you might get denied. If you are actively using marijuana, I am pretty confident the FPD will refuse to hire you. Marijuana is federally illegal still and constitutes a federal crime. You can't be doing that while representing clients whose lives are on the line based on your ability to practice law in the federal system.

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Nov 05, 2022 11:29 pm

Yeah, the answer here is don’t disclose. Lawyers are good to ask for legal advice, but not so much for common sense…

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Nov 06, 2022 12:01 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Nov 05, 2022 11:29 pm
Yeah, the answer here is don’t disclose. Lawyers are good to ask for legal advice, but not so much for common sense…
This is a really bad take. If your impulse is to lie about your past to get a federal job, you shouldn't be in that job.

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Nov 06, 2022 9:28 am

I’m going to provide my experience as someone who recently went through this background check for DOJ. I disclosed marijuana usage from during law school (less than 2 years prior than the background check) and was still approved. I think post bar usage of anything but marijuana is going to be an auto-ding, but marijuana is going to depend heavily on the circumstances. I was asked questions about where I used (if locally legal it’s better than if illegal on both federal and state level), what the circumstances were, and had to write and sign a letter describing these circumstances and stating I would not use in the future. If you disclose any use in the last 7 years, you’re going to also have to fill out a supplemental form that discloses all use of any drugs ever.

I disagree with the take that if you’re a habitual user that you won’t get cleared, because I know a few people who disclosed past habitual usage and were cleared. This is so case by case that you should just shoot your shot.

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Nov 06, 2022 12:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Nov 05, 2022 11:29 pm
Yeah, the answer here is don’t disclose. Lawyers are good to ask for legal advice, but not so much for common sense…
Are you aware that making false statements on federal forms constitutes the felony offense of perjury? The FBI conducts a thorough background investigation that includes in-person or telephonic interviews of people you are randomly acquainted with--not just your buddies who you listed as references. This is such a dumb statement that it amazes me someone with a law degree actually wrote it.

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Nov 06, 2022 12:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Nov 06, 2022 9:28 am
I’m going to provide my experience as someone who recently went through this background check for DOJ. I disclosed marijuana usage from during law school (less than 2 years prior than the background check) and was still approved. I think post bar usage of anything but marijuana is going to be an auto-ding, but marijuana is going to depend heavily on the circumstances. I was asked questions about where I used (if locally legal it’s better than if illegal on both federal and state level), what the circumstances were, and had to write and sign a letter describing these circumstances and stating I would not use in the future. If you disclose any use in the last 7 years, you’re going to also have to fill out a supplemental form that discloses all use of any drugs ever.

I disagree with the take that if you’re a habitual user that you won’t get cleared, because I know a few people who disclosed past habitual usage and were cleared. This is so case by case that you should just shoot your shot.
AUSA here who also went through this recently, but I don't agree with a few nitpicks here.

The FBI investigation is different from the OARM decision-making process. The FBI only cares about the last 7 years. The OARM cares about any use post-bar whether it's the last 7 years or not.

I would be utterly shocked if you really know any AUSA who had "past habitual usage" post-bar and was cleared. College age, sure, but the OARM doesn't care about that, and if it was more than 7 years ago then neither does the FBI. More importantly, I've had enough conversations about this topic with experienced AUSAs to know that feelings on this subject are pretty strong. Many of the older guys and gals, who made it through a literally zero tolerance regime, believe that zero tolerance should still be the current rule no matter how old the usage. That is the culture of the people who run DOJ for better or for worse.

If you were a habitual user post-bar, I would put my money on your getting auto-dinged by OARM.

p.s. You can actually call the OARM after receiving a conditional offer but before your investigation even begins, and get a verbal preview of whether your history is going to pose a problem or not. I did not do this myself but the OARM encourages applicants to do this, so as to not screw up their own career decisions plus tie up federal resources.

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Nov 06, 2022 12:57 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Nov 06, 2022 12:40 pm
p.s. You can actually call the OARM after receiving a conditional offer but before your investigation even begins, and get a verbal preview of whether your history is going to pose a problem or not. I did not do this myself but the OARM encourages applicants to do this, so as to not screw up their own career decisions plus tie up federal resources.
Another AUSA who wants to second this - this is a good thing to do if you think you'll have any issues. Withdrawing your application before the investigation is complete is a much better option than being found unfit, because the latter will go on your record and likely ding you for any future application.

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Nov 06, 2022 10:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Nov 06, 2022 12:32 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Nov 05, 2022 11:29 pm
Yeah, the answer here is don’t disclose. Lawyers are good to ask for legal advice, but not so much for common sense…
Are you aware that making false statements on federal forms constitutes the felony offense of perjury? The FBI conducts a thorough background investigation that includes in-person or telephonic interviews of people you are randomly acquainted with--not just your buddies who you listed as references. This is such a dumb statement that it amazes me someone with a law degree actually wrote it.
So the OP is going to jail then? :D

It boggles my mind the amount of degeneracy that goes on among the partners and clients in big law. I guess those partners, as leaders of our profession, should (and of course do) voluntarily disclose their poor actions to the firm because it’s the right thing to do?

If OP was a pot head, maybe something to worry about. Not an occasional lark on a trip to Colorado.

nixy

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Re: Marijuana use/federal job

Post by nixy » Sun Nov 06, 2022 11:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Nov 06, 2022 10:45 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Nov 06, 2022 12:32 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Nov 05, 2022 11:29 pm
Yeah, the answer here is don’t disclose. Lawyers are good to ask for legal advice, but not so much for common sense…
Are you aware that making false statements on federal forms constitutes the felony offense of perjury? The FBI conducts a thorough background investigation that includes in-person or telephonic interviews of people you are randomly acquainted with--not just your buddies who you listed as references. This is such a dumb statement that it amazes me someone with a law degree actually wrote it.
So the OP is going to jail then? :D

It boggles my mind the amount of degeneracy that goes on among the partners and clients in big law. I guess those partners, as leaders of our profession, should (and of course do) voluntarily disclose their poor actions to the firm because it’s the right thing to do?

If OP was a pot head, maybe something to worry about. Not an occasional lark on a trip to Colorado.
This is a really stupid post. What biglaw partners/clients do or don’t do has nothing to do with how a job applicant should answer questions on a background check for a federal job.

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

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