Marijuana and District Government Employees


Effective Date: Expiration Date: Chapters:
Feb. 11, 2021 When Superseded 4   12   16  


In the District of Columbia, eligible individuals may use marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes. As a result, the District government recognizes the need to review, clarify, and update existing policies for public employees. This issuance expands upon Mayor's Order 2019-81, Cannabis Policy, Guidance, and Procedures, and explains the District's policy for employees in non-safety sensitive positions. Safety Sensitive employees should refer to issuance I-2020-18, Marijuana and Safety Sensitive Employees, instead of this issuance.

Use of Marijuana Products

Provided that such use does not interfere with or impair their ability to carry out their assigned duties, District government employees who are not classified as safety sensitive may engage in off-duty, lawful use of marijuana products, which is any substance that contains more than 0.03% of the psychoactive chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Employees may not use, distribute, possess, or be impaired by marijuana products while on duty or on District government owned or leased property.

Medical Marijuana

No employees, even those who hold a valid medical marijuana card, may use marijuana at work. An agency, at its discretion, may allow an employee to use sick leave or arrange an alternative work schedule that allows the employee to use medicinal marijuana outside the employee’s tour of duty.

Agencies may not disqualify any applicant from the hiring process merely for possessing a medical marijuana card, or for their involvement in a government-approved medical marijuana program administered by the District of Columbia or a reciprocal jurisdiction.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

An employee’s drug testing requirements are determined by their position designation. All District employees are subject to reasonable suspicion and post-accident or incident drug and alcohol testing. Protection sensitive employees are additionally subject to pre-employment drug and alcohol testing. To confirm their position designation, employees can consult their position description, offer letter document, or DCHR’s issuance on position designations, or speak with their agency Human Resources staff.

Drug Tests Applicable to Non-Safety Sensitive Employees
  Protection Sensitive[1] Security Sensitive Non-covered Positions
Pre-employment Yes No No
Post-accident/incident Yes Yes Yes
Reasonable Suspicion Yes Yes Yes

Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Applicants for covered positions who have been extended conditional offers of employment are referred to as “appointees.” Most appointees are not subject to pre-employment drug testing. Only appointees for positions designated as protection or safety sensitive will need to undergo a pre-employment drug test to determine whether they are suitable for the position.  

For Protection Sensitive Positions

Appointees to protection sensitive positions are subject to pre-employment drug testing after receiving a conditional offer. A positive pre-employment test result for only marijuana will not on its own deem an appointee unsuitable. An appointee who tests positive for marijuana only on this test will continue forward with the employment consideration process. However, an agency may disqualify the appointee if the pre-employment drug test detects the presence or use of any other prohibited drugs.

For Safety Sensitive Positions

Appointees to safety sensitive positions are also subject to pre-employment drug testing. For more information on pre-employment drug testing for safety sensitive positions, please refer to Issuance No. 2020-18, Marijuana and Safety Sensitive Employees.

Reasonable Suspicion

All District government employees are subject to reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing. If an agency believes that an employee is impaired at work due to the use of drugs or alcohol, the agency may require that the employee take a drug and alcohol test.

Some signs of impairment may include:

  1. Bloodshot eyes, or pupils larger or smaller than usual;
  2. Unusually disheveled physical appearance;
  3. Falling asleep or fainting;
  4. Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination; and
  5. Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.

An agency may not establish reasonable suspicion solely on the basis that an employee possesses a medical marijuana card or on the basis that the employee participates in a recognized medical marijuana program. An agency also cannot use the employee’s possession of a medical marijuana card, or participation in a recognized program as a supporting factor for reasonable suspicion.

For more information on reasonable suspicion testing, please see our issuance on Reasonable Suspicion Drug and Alcohol Testing.

Post-Accident and Post-Incident Drug and Alcohol Testing

All District employees may be subject to post-accident and post-incident drug and alcohol testing if they are involved in an accident or incident that:

  1. Results in any bodily injury or loss of human life;
  2. Involves one or more disabled vehicles (either owned by the District or privately owned) that must be towed;
  3. Involves a bodily injury that requires immediate medical attention away from the scene;
  4. Results in the issuance of a traffic citation to the employee for one or more moving traffic violations arising from the incident;
  5. Indicates reasonable grounds to suspect that the employee was under the influence of an intoxicating substance at the time of the accident or incident;
  6. Indicates that the actions of the employee cannot reasonably be discounted as a contributing factor using the best information available at the time of the decision; or
  7. Results in serious damage to machinery, equipment or other property.

In addition to drug and alcohol testing, to the extent possible, the agency must send a trained supervisor to the site of the accident or incident to conduct a reasonable suspicion observation and complete a Reasonable Suspicion Observation Form.

Chapter 16 of the D.C. personnel regulations. If a non-safety sensitive employee tests positive for marijuana after an accident or incident, the positive test result for marijuana can be outweighed by clear and convincing evidence that the employee was not impaired at the time of the incident. A positive test result for any other regulated drug or for alcohol may result in an administrative action pursuant to corrective and adverse action policies and procedures.

Positive Drug Test Results

Following a drug or alcohol test based on reasonable suspicion or after an accident or incident, an agency shall take appropriate and progressive disciplinary action in accordance with Chapter 16 of the D.C. personnel regulations.   

Responding to a Corrective or Adverse Action Related to a Marijuana Test

If DCHR or an agency issues an employee a proposed corrective or adverse action related to a positive drug test for the presence of marijuana, the employee may provide clear and convincing evidence that they were not impaired by marijuana at the time of the test. Such evidence must be provided to the deciding official or, in the case of removal, to the assigned hearing officer. For instance, employees could provide evidence that their use of marijuana was so remote in time from when they reported for duty that it could not have presented a risk of impairment. Evidence may include a completed Reasonable Suspicion Observation Form or any other reliable evidence indicating that the employee was not impaired. Deciding officials and hearing officers may consider this evidence as a mitigating factor.

The relevant agency shall make the final administrative determination based upon the evidence provided by the proposing official and by the employee and any recommendations made by a hearing officer, as applicable. Safety sensitive employees should refer to Issuance No. 2020-##, Marijuana and Safety Sensitive Employees.



This issuance applies to all District government employees under the Mayor’s personnel authority who are not designated as safety sensitive.

Collective Bargaining Agreements

To the extent a provision of this issuance is incompatible with a negotiated collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the CBA provision shall apply.

Additional Information

For additional information concerning this issuance, please contact the D.C. Department of Human Resources, Policy and Compliance Administration, by calling (202) 442-9700 or by sending an e-mail to

Issued by Director Ventris C. Gibson, D.C. Department of Human Resources on Feb. 11, 2021, 10:39 a.m.