Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk is reportedly having his security clearance reviewed after smoking marijuana during a podcast, but he’s far from the only person whose government security clearance is threatened by a cannabis connection.
Federal employees and contractors who simply own stocks in cannabis-related companies could have problems maintaining the security clearance required to do their jobs, experts told MarketWatch.
In one case, a Department of Defense employee who listed his marijuana-related investments on a financial disclosure form during an annual security clearance check-up was told to get rid of the shares, said Timothy Maimone, a union officer with American Federation of Government Employees Council 170.
“They basically wrote him a letter saying you’re violating the public trust by owning stock in this marijuana company,” Maimone told MarketWatch. “They gave him 30 days to fix the problem or we’ll pull your clearance.” The employee sold the shares and kept his clearance.
Using marijuana — which is illegal under federal law but legal in several states — is definitely a no-no under security clearance guidelines, which prohibit the unlawful use of controlled substances. But Maimone, whose union represents close to 9,000 Department of Defense employees worldwide, said it felt like higher-ups were “picking on” employees who are invested in marijuana-related stocks.
“Cannabis is not a problem in this country,” Maimone said. “We have more of a problem with substance abuse, yet they’re not going after people who own stock in companies that make opioids.” Employees in his union typically make about $80,000 a year, and the employee who ran afoul of clearance rules had a few hundred dollars invested in cannabis companies, he said.