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Up In Smoke: FBI Won’t Change Rules On Pot Smoking Recruits

4 minute read

Want to be a Fed or a spy but you inhaled, like, last night?

On Monday, FBI chief James Comey seemed to open the door for pot smokers when he told the American Bar Association’s annual white-collar crime conference that the bureau might be relaxing its rules for hiring, thanks to the need for talented white hat hackers. “I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” Mr. Comey said.

But in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning, Comey slammed the door on any dramatic changes to the FBI’s policies on its employees smoking marijuana. “I am absolutely dead set against using marijuana,” Comey said in response to a question from Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who worried Comey was dismissing the seriousness of marijuana use. “I did not say I’m going to change that ban,” Comey said.

The FBI policy was loosened in 2007 to allow those who hadn’t smoked pot in the last three years to qualify for hiring. Previously, anyone who had smoked pot more than 15 times had been disqualified.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a conference goer Monday asked Mr. Comey about a friend who had shied away from applying because of the current marijuana policy policy. “He should go ahead and apply,” Comey responded, according to the paper.

As a service to all the would-be Feds out there with a taste for the occasional spliff, here is a quick guide to the current policies of some of the nation’s top law enforcement and intelligence agencies:



The FBI is firmly committed to a drug-free society and work place. Therefore, the unlawful use of drugs by FBI employees is not tolerated. Furthermore, applicants for employment with the FBI who currently use illegal drugs will be found unsuitable for employment. The FBI does not condone any prior unlawful drug use by applicants. We realize, however, some otherwise qualified applicants may have used drugs at some point in their pasts. The following policy sets forth the criteria for determining whether any prior drug use makes an applicant unsuitable for employment, balancing the needs of the FBI to maintain a drug-free workplace and the public integrity necessary to accomplish the FBI’s intelligence and law enforcement missions. Applicants who do not meet the listed criteria should not apply for any FBI position.


You can easily determine whether you meet the FBI’s illegal drug policy by answering the following questions:

  1. Have you used marijuana at all within the last three years?
  2. Have you used any other illegal drug (including anabolic steroids after February 27, 1991) at all in the past 10 years?
  3. Have you ever sold, distributed, manufactured, or transported any illegal drug?
  4. Have you ever used any prescription drug or used a legally obtainable substance in a manner for which it was not intended within three years (36 months) preceding the date of the preliminary application for employment?

If you answered Yes to any of these questions, you are not eligible for employment with the FBI.



To be considered suitable for Agency employment, applicants must generally not have used illegal drugs within the last 12 months. The issue of illegal drug use prior to 12 months ago is carefully evaluated during the medical and security processing. Drug abuse is one of the common reasons applicants are denied a security clearance. You cannot work for the CIA without a security clearance. You can find more information on this subject at Before You Apply on the Application Process.

Recently, Colorado and Washington legalized the sale of recreational marijuana under their state law. In addition, 20 states plus the District of Columbia have also legalized the use of marijuana for medical conditions, likewise under their state law. Despite the legalization of marijuana under state law, federal statute specifically prohibits CIA and other agencies from granting security clearances to users of controlled substances, including marijuana. Further, the use of marijuana and other controlled substances in violation of federal law remains a possible disqualifying criterion under Intelligence Community clearance eligibility standards. Regardless of whether an individual is located in a state that has legalized marijuana or in a foreign country where local laws allow it, and regardless of whether the Department of Justice enforces applicable federal criminal prohibitions in those jurisdictions, any use of marijuana may adversely impact that individual’s eligibility for a security clearance.



Employees of and applicants to NSA are subject to random urinalysis testing in accordance with NSA/CSS Policy 4-1, ‘NSA/CSS Drug Abuse and Civilian Drug Deterrence Policy,’ and Executive Order 12564 ‘Drug-free Federal Workplace’.

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