Federal Implications

Cannabis remains illegal under federal law, where it’s still classified as a controlled substance. This difference between Washington and federal laws can lead to challenges in knowing how and where the different laws apply. If necessary, consult with legal advisers to be sure you fully understand how federal and state laws may affect you.

What this could mean for you:

  • Federal jobs
    Federal employees, including military personnel, are not allowed to use cannabis. If you already have or hope to apply for a federal job, you may want to avoid cannabis use.
  • Immigration
    Working in the cannabis industry can impact the immigration status of green card holders. Some green card holders have lost their ability to live and work in the U.S. because of working for the cannabis industry.
  • Student financial aid
    You could lose eligibility for federal financial aid opportunities for any cannabis use or possession charges. This is especially important for youth. Federal financial aid includes Perkins Loans, Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, PLUS Loans, and Work-Study programs. Section 484 subsection R of the Higher Education Act of 1998   states that a student with a past conviction of any controlled-substance offense (including cannabis) isn’t eligible for any of the above federal financial aid.
  • Firearms
    If you apply to buy a firearm (gun), you must complete Federal Form 4473, which asks about unlawful cannabis use. Since cannabis is still illegal federally, cannabis consumers may be rejected from buying a firearm. Lying on this form is a federal felony.
  • Housing
    If you live in federally subsidized housing, any cannabis use or possession charges may result in a loss of federal housing benefits.
  • Federal land
    Cannabis is still illegal on federal land, including national parks, federal courthouses, USPS buildings and vehicles, and military bases.
  • Federally funded property or entities, including colleges and universities
    Places that receive a significant amount   of federal funding must adhere to the federal Drug-Free Workplaces Act of 1988, which bans the use of cannabis on those properties.

    Universities and colleges that get federal funds, including support for research as well as federal financial aid their students receive, must comply with the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. This means use and/or possession of cannabis in any form, or possession of any paraphernalia, is prohibited. 

  • Flights and Cruises
    Cannabis and cannabis-infused products are illegal on flights. Cruise lines also prohibit cannabis, including cannabis used for medical purposes.
  • Mailing and shipping
    Cannabis, including edibles, cannot be mailed or shipped, even to states and countries where cannabis use is legal.



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