Aspiring Spies Who Use Cannabis Should Hold Off on Applying to CIA

If you aspire to work in the intelligence community in the United States, particularly the CIA, you might want to put your dreams on hold temporarily if you have used cannabis in the last three months. The CIA marijuana policy may also require you to answer questions about past drug use which could impact whether you get a job or your level of security clearance if you do.

You can’t really blame the CIA marijuana policy on the agency itself. Because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, using cannabis – even if it’s legal in your state – poses a problem for the CIA. That’s because federal law still views what you’re doing as illegal, and the CIA can’t hire people who commit federal crimes.

The CIA Marijuana Policy For Job Applicants

The CIA marijuana policy is straightforward and included on its website under CIA requirements. It reads:

“Although some states have legalized marijuana use, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Those who are invited to apply must not have used marijuana or products containing THC within 90 days prior to submitting an application, or any time thereafter. This includes prescription medical marijuana.”

They also emphasize that “accurate and consistent reporting of previous drug use, including marijuana, is expected through each phase of processing.”

They define THC products as anything containing more than 0.3 percent THC. That corresponds with the THC percentage figure used in the federal law enacted by Congress as part of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill that legalized hemp products, including CBD.

More Insight From Ask Molly Column

The CIA publish an “Ask Molly” column that fields questions from people about the CIA and answers them online. “Molly Hale” is the pseudonym used by the various CIA agents who answer the questions. In a column that is still posted on the CIA website, a person called “Eager to Serve” admits to past drug use and asks if they are still fit to work for the agency.

In responding to the question, Molly wrote that while the drug policy might seem “a bit archaic,” CIA officers often handle sensitive, classified information and there are “consequences of granting access to the wrong person.”

The blog continued, “I’m not asserting that those who have experimented with drugs are in some way bad or unworthy, but a willingness to break federal law to engage in illicit drug use can be used as a measure of someone’s fitness to hold a security clearance.”

However, “Molly” went on to write that “generally speaking, to be eligible for CIA employment, applicants must not have used illegal drugs within the past 12 months.” The blog noted that this applies to marijuana use. Even if an applicant lives in a state where marijuana is legal, they need to understand that “state laws do not supersede those of the federal government.”

Marijuana and Eligibility for Federal Jobs

The CIA’s “three month rule” – or even the 12-month rule from the Ask Molly column – seems open-minded when compared to past actions by federal agencies, including warnings from NASA and the U.S. Navy to employees and sailors to not use CBD products (which are legal nationwide). The Department of Defense, Air Force and Coast Guard issues similar warnings.

However, the FBI recently loosened its restrictions against past marijuana use. The agency changed its policy so that job candidates are only automatically disqualified from joining the agency if they admit to cannabis use within one year of applying. Previously, past use within the last three years meant disqualification.

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has also recommended that 19 U.S. intelligence agencies officially change their rulesto allow hiring those who admit to past use of cannabis.

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