Federal implications

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

What this could mean to you

Federal jobs:
  • Federal employees are not allowed to use marijuana. If you already have or hope to apply for a federal job, you may want to avoid marijuana use.


  • Working in the marijuana industry can impact the immigration status of green card holders. 
  • Some green card holders have lost their ability to live and work in the United states as a result of working for the marijuana industry.


Student financial aid:

  • You could lose federal financial aid opportunities for any marijuana use or possession charges. This is especially important for underage 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 (which still includes marijuana) isn’t eligible for any of the above federal financial aid.


  • If you apply to purchase a firearm, you must complete Federal Form 4473, which asks about unlawful marijuana use.
    • Since marijuana is still illegal federally, marijuana consumers may be rejected from purchasing a firearm.
    • Lying on this form is a federal felony with a maximum prison sentence of five years.


  • If you live in federally subsidized housing, any marijuana use or possession charges may mean that you lose your federal housing benefits.

Federal land:

  • Marijuana is still illegal on federal land, including national parks, ski slopes and military bases.


Federally funded property:

  • Places that receive a significant amount of federal funding must adhere to the federal Drug-Free Workplaces Act of 1988, which would ban the use of marijuana on those properties.


Working together:

The federal government requested that Colorado and any state that legalizes marijuana work together to prevent:

  • Distribution of marijuana to minors.
  • Transporting marijuana from states where it’s legal to other states.
  • Drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences.
  • Growing marijuana on public lands.
  • Marijuana possession or use on federal property. 
  • Other criminal activity or violence associated with the sale of marijuana.

Many state agencies are working together on these efforts. You can help, too, by learning about and following Colorado’s marijuana laws.