Q & A Session: Losing an Annuity Due To Marijuana Use



Can a CSRS retiree lose his or her annuity if they start using medical marijuana under the supervision of a neurologist in Colorado where medical marijuana is legal?


No, a retired federal employee receiving an annuity cannot lose that annuity because of marijuana use.  You may be worried about the possibility of losing your annuity because although some marijuana use is legal in Colorado, the federal government views your medicinal use of marijuana to be unlawful.  However, there is no real risk to your previously earned annuity.  Use of marijuana is not codified in federal statute as a basis for terminating a federal retiree’s annuity, and even a federal criminal conviction relating to marijuana does not jeopardize a previously earned federal pension.  The list of crimes for which a conviction will result in termination of your annuity is codified at 5 U.S.C § 8312. Those charges almost all relate to criminal disloyalty to the United States: espionage, treason, sabotage, insurrection against the United States, improper sharing or intentional loss of certain highly classified documents, and so on.

However, because use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, even where states have decriminalized or even legalized marijuana use, current federal employees must be aware that they could be terminated or lose their security clearances (which in turn often leads to termination of employment) for drug use and/or drug related criminal convictions.  As with any other kind of termination of employment, a termination relating to drug use could jeopardize an active employee’s annuity if he or she has not yet served long enough to receive an annuity.

This response is written by Michael S. Causey, associate attorney of Shaw Bransford & Roth P.C., a federal employment law firm.

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