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Former cannabis users may soon be able to apply for jobs at the CIA or other federal intelligence agencies, thanks to new legislation advancing through the US Senate.
The Senate Intelligence Committee just unanimously approved a measure that would prevent federal hiring agencies from discriminating against job applicants over former pot use. Under current regulations, officials automatically deny security clearances to any prospective hire who admits to having used cannabis in the past. Applicants who are unable to secure a federal security clearance are barred from working most jobs at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or National Security Agency (NSA).
The new amendment, proposed by congressional cannabis champion Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), was attached to the 2023 Intelligence Authorization Act, the annual budget bill for federal intelligence agencies. This provision aims to prohibit the “denial of a security clearance to IC [intelligence community] personnel based solely on past use of cannabis.” In addition to the cannabis amendment, Wyden also added several additional amendments to protect IC whistleblowers and improve US cybersecurity.
“I applaud the committee for including my provisions, in particular an amendment ensuring that past cannabis use will not disqualify intelligence community applicants from serving their country,” Wyden said in a statement. “It’s a common-sense change to ensure the IC can recruit the most capable people possible.”
The need to recruit highly-qualified candidates has also convinced the FBI to revise its extreme cannabis hiring policies. Last year, the bureau announced that they would be willing to hire people who had gotten blazed in the past, as long as they abstained for a full year prior to applying for the job. A few months later, the FBI revised the policy back again, adding an arbitrary cap that disqualifies people who have smoked weed more than 24 times in their lives.
Although the feds may finally be willing to accept former pot smokers, federal agencies require current employees to abstain from cannabis entirely. All federal employees must submit to pre-employment and random drug testing, and can be fired or disciplined if they test positive for THC. This zero-tolerance policy applies regardless of state adult-use or medical marijuana laws, and the feds will even deny jobs to anyone who invests in the cannabis industry.
The new cannabis hiring amendment does not change IC policies regarding current cannabis use, but Sen. Wyden has promised to “fight to ensure that ongoing cannabis use is not the basis for denying or losing a clearance.” The senator did not reveal further information about these plans, but he has co-authored a bill that would completely legalize cannabis at the federal level.
Wyden's amendments are now attached to the Intelligence Authorization Act, which must pass this year in order to fund intelligence agencies next year. Republicans will still have a chance at shooting down this amendment, but the unanimous support from the Intelligence Committee suggests that lawmakers may be willing to let this minor reform stand.