In a first for intelligence agencies in the United States, a proposed change in law would allow the CIA and other agencies to hire people who have used cannabis in the past. While the exact language of the proposal is unknown, it may mirror changes FBI officials have made within their own agency.
The proposal came from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which approves funding for government agencies within the U.S. intelligence community. The full Senate must still pass the change, which is part of the funding bill the committee passed unanimously. If passed by the Senate, the change only becomes law if passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the president.
The proposed change is noteworthy because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. Also, past and current use of cannabis is a hot issue right now in the workplace. Some states, cities, private companies and even sports leagues have taken action to protect workers from losing their job over legal cannabis use.
Protection For Past Use
It’s important to note that the change would only bar the CIA and other intelligence agencies from not hiring someone who used cannabis in the past, not those who currently use it, according to CNN. The proposed change prohibits intelligence agencies from discriminating against job applicants based on past cannabis use.
Cannabis is now legal in 19 states and Washington DC for recreational use, while 36 have legalized medical marijuana for health and wellness.
Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, sponsored the measure. He told CNN that Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York both helped support the proposal.
Wyden called it “a common-sense change to ensure the [intelligence community] can recruit the most capable people possible.”
In the past, national security officials have complained that not allowing them to hire those who have used cannabis cut down on the number of qualified applicants, especially for tech and cybersecurity workers.
The FBI Already Has Made a Change
The FBI, a member of the intelligence community as well as a law enforcement agency, already has changed its rules on hiring those who have used marijuana. However, FBI job applicant guidelines come with plenty of limitations in those areas.
The regulations state that job candidates cannot have used cannabis in any form, in the U.S. or anywhere in the world, within one year preceding the date of their job application. It also states that use of marijuana before the age of 18 does not disqualify people from working at the FBI, “however; adjudicative personnel will evaluate the candidate.”
The exact wording of what is in the intelligence community funding bill is not yet known. If passed by Congress and signed by the president, the change has the potential to impact all intelligence agencies. The Senate lists 19 such agencies, including:
- Office of the Director of National Intelligence
- Central Intelligence Agency
- National Security Agency/Central Security Service
- Defense Intelligence Agency
- National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
- National Reconnaissance Office
- Department of State
- Department of Defense
- Department of Justice
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Drug Enforcement Administration
- Department of Homeland Security
- Department of Treasury
- Department of Energy – Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence
- Army Intelligence
- Air Force Intelligence
- U.S. Navy, Naval Intelligence
- U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Corps Intelligence Activity
- Coast Guard Intelligence