Just to clarify that headline a bit, the federal government isn’t actually running help-wanted ads seeking out people who are highly skilled at firing up a bong. But a provision in the 2023 Intelligence Authorization Act that’s currently making its way through Congress and was approved by the Senate would make some changes to the background checks and hiring practices for America’s intelligence agencies. If approved, people would no longer be automatically disqualified if they admit to having smoked marijuana in the past. The sponsor of the provision was Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden (of course), and he believes that opening up the hiring process in this fashion will ensure that the intel offices “can recruit the most capable people possible.” The measure is not expected to meet any significant resistance. (Government Executive)

Intelligence agencies would be allowed to hire job candidates who have used marijuana in the past, under a legislative provision being considered in the Senate.

On Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously approved this provision as part of the 2023 Intelligence Authorization Act. The text of the legislation is not public yet.

“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,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in a statement on Thursday. “It’s a common-sense change to ensure the [intelligence community] can recruit the most capable people possible.”

None of this means that it’s suddenly going to be okay to stock up on rolling papers at the CIA. One supporter of the measure who formerly worked as a human capital officer for the intelligence community described how applicants should not be automatically screened out for “past transgressions.” Note that smoking marijuana will still be considered a transgression. He went on to emphasize that “the key word is ‘past’.”

It’s also being suggested that the new process could be accompanied by regular drug tests and continuous monitoring. In other words, under the new rules, you can be forgiven for having smoked pot earlier in your life, but Uncle Sam will be watching you closely to make sure you stay on the straight and narrow.

I’ll skip past all of the predictable jokes about Cheech and Chong showing up at your door and waving an FBI badge at you and focus on why this policy once again highlights the disconnect between the federal and states governments. Consider the fact that a lot of our intelligence agencies are headquartered in Washington, DC. Many employees live over the border in Virginia or Maryland. Recreational marijuana use has been legal in the District of Columbia since 2014. It’s going to be legal in Virginia next month. (Only medical marijuana is legal in Maryland, but possession of less than 10 grams has been decriminalized.)

However, marijuana remains a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, putting it in the same category as cocaine and heroin. That means that you can engage in something that’s perfectly legal in your home in DC or Virginia and then be fired from your job when you show up to work and blow a medical test. The intelligence community will be dealing with the same situation that contractors with federal contracts already deal with in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized.

Aren’t we past the point where we’re worried about someone who may have smoked pot when they were younger? For that matter, should employers really care if their workers are lighting up at home when they’re not on the job? I’m not suggesting that our intel agents should be toasted at the office. That’s no better than having someone who shows up blind drunk when they’re clocking in.

If Congress really wants to do something productive and impress the voters, perhaps they could revisit the issue of the Controlled Substances Act and offer some new clarity, taking into account the latest research. I’m still not 100% convinced that marijuana is completely safe, particularly with some studies suggesting heavy use can lead to issues with psychosis. But the debate has been going on for a while now and it’s really past time we had some clarity on this.

You Might Like
Learn more about RevenueStripe...