One in four young people are passing on the opportunity to apply for Federal jobs that require security clearances because the government’s marijuana policies are too strict, according to a new study from ClearanceJobs and the Intelligence and National Security Foundation.

The vast majority of respondents – 96 percent – were dazed and confused on what the Federal government’s policy even is for both applicants and current clearance holders, the April 20 report finds.

The survey polled students and young professionals aged 18 to 30 currently living or attending school in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., California, Florida, Texas, and Colorado.

A total of 905 respondents completed the survey, and of those, 40 percent said they had used marijuana in the past 12 months, while 31 percent said they had used some form of CBD over the past year.  CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is an active ingredient in marijuana.

“Conventions around marijuana use may have shifted, but federal laws haven’t,” the report says. “That makes ongoing drug use an issue for security clearance applicants. And that leaves many wondering if the path to a national security career is going up in smoke for an increasing number of applicants.”

The upside is that once they were informed of the government’s drug policies, most young people reported it won’t prevent them from considering a job requiring a security clearance.

However, the problem is that most young people have no idea what those policies are, and they believe that abstaining from drug use is a requirement for a cleared career. When asked about having to report their drug use, more than 20 percent said the requirement to report drug use would keep them from applying for a national security position.

However, only four percent of respondents were able to correctly identify the government’s policy on marijuana use for both applicants and current clearance holders, the study finds. Once respondents were informed of the real policies, 25 percent said it would prevent them from seeking employment requiring a clearance.

“That means that one out of four respondents ages 18-30 – in the coveted demographic the government is looking to attract – are saying, ‘thank you, next’ when it comes to a job that requires them to ‘just say no’ to marijuana,” the report says.

The actual government policy is that using marijuana is a factor for security clearance applicants, but that it shouldn’t be the sole disqualifier in deciding whether to grant a clearance. Once someone is granted a clearance, they’re effectively forbidden from using marijuana no matter where they live, or they risk losing the clearance.

“There are two key issues with current drug policies – the reality that one in five young people have no desire to pursue a government career with a marijuana ban, and the even greater number who are simply completely ignorant of the government’s drug policies – so much so that they are likely to weed themselves out of the process erroneously,” the report says.

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