Military Commanders Warn Troops About Investing in Marijuana Companies

FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2018, file photo, a clerk reaches for a container of marijuana buds for a customer at Utopia Gardens, a medical marijuana dispensary in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2018, file photo, a clerk reaches for a container of marijuana buds for a customer at Utopia Gardens, a medical marijuana dispensary in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

While the Defense Department has no official policy that explicitly states service members or U.S. federal employees may not buy stock in companies that manufacture or sell marijuana, commanders have the discretion to warn their troops against the move because it could jeopardize security clearances.

Commanders do have the authorities to develop local policies as long as they do not contradict with overall DoD guidelines, according to a defense official who spoke with Military.com on background. If an organization or command issues guidelines stating the organization's legal position on the matter, it does not mean it is official DoD policy, the official said.

The clarification comes after multiple emails surfaced from local leaders telling service members to be careful about what they invest in -- especially if they hold a clearance.

"While, currently, no official DoD guidance specific to financial involvement in marijuana exists, the Pentagon continues to research the topic," Army Lt. Col. Audricia Harris, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Thursday. "Any changes will be addressed through normal policy update procedures."

DoD uses 13 criteria to evaluate security clearance request, flagging service members who may be at risk for illicit or illegal activities. These evaluation criteria range from allegiance to the U.S. to sexual preferences and financial circumstances and debt.

"Recently, several news outlets have incorrectly cited a change in Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudications Facility (CAF) policy regarding investment in companies that sell or manufacture marijuana or related products," Harris said in a statement. "The DoD CAF does not issue policy. Instead, the DoD CAF adheres to applicable policies when making adjudicative determinations."

"These determinations apply the 'whole person concept' and take into account all available information, favorable and unfavorable, to render an appropriate determination on a person's reliability and trustworthiness to hold a clearance," Harris added.

Related content: Owning Marijuana Company Stocks Could Endanger Your Security Clearance

While the clearance determination process is subjective, the evaluation categories illustrate how much risk people are willing to take, which could imperil their jobs, the official said.

The current guidance stems from a 2014 memo signed by then-Direction of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The memo states that any government employee who disregards federal law about "the use, sale, or manufacture of marijuana" remains under scrutiny, and could be denied for a security clearance.

While the use "or involvement with marijuana" calls into question "an individual's judgment," the memo, signed Oct. 25, 2014, does not explicitly mention investing in companies that legally distribute marijuana.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

Show Full Article