The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence passed the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) on June 22 which would prevent government intelligence agencies (such as Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and more) from discriminating against job applicants because of past use of cannabis.
Senator Ron Wyden is a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which also passed protections for whistleblowers and strengthened cyber security efforts. “This bipartisan legislation makes meaningful strides to improve treatment of whistleblowers and ensuring Congress can perform real oversight of intelligence agencies,” Wyden said in a press statement. “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. It’s a common-sense change to ensure the IC [Intelligence Committee] can recruit the most capable people possible.”
The press release describes the exact provision in relation to cannabis. “Prohibiting denial of a security clearance to IC personnel based solely on past use of cannabis. Senator Wyden will continue to fight to ensure that ongoing cannabis use is not the basis for denying or losing a clearance,” the release states.
Wyden shared on Twitter that Senator Martin Heinrich and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand were strong supporters of the amendment. “Big thanks to @MartinHeinrich and @SenGillibrand for their support of this common-sense provision, which will ensure the intelligence community can continue to recruit the most capable people possible.”
The entire committee of 16 individuals unanimously voted in approval of the amendment, however, it will require continued support from the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as a signature from President Joe Biden, before it can officially become law. According to Wall Street Journal, the amendment is not yet public.
In July 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) updated its hiring guidelines to open up the pool of applicants as well. “Candidates cannot have used marijuana or cannabis in any form (natural or synthetic) and in any location (domestic or foreign) within the one (1) year preceding the date of their application for employment,” the updated website stated. It also states that any cannabis consumption before age 18 won’t disqualify the applicant.
Previously, the wording suggested that applicants can’t have used cannabis within three years “regardless of the location of use (even if marijuana usage is legal in the candidate’s home state).”
In December 2021, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines provided some guidance on the topic of cannabis consumption in a memo. “…the illegal use or misuse of controlled substances can raise security concerns about an individual’s reliability and trustworthiness to access classified information or to hold a sensitive position, as well as their ability or willingness to comply with laws, rules, and regulations,” the memo stated.
Due to the federally illegal status of cannabis, clearance applicants are still recommended to abstain from cannabis consumption. “…in light of the long-standing federal law and policy prohibiting illegal drug use while occupying a sensitive position or holding a security clearance, agencies are encouraged to advise prospective national security workforce employees that they should refrain from any future marijuana use upon initiation of the national security vetting process, which commences once the individual signs the certification contained in the Standard Form 86 (SF-86), Questionnaire for National Security Positions.”
The memo also established clarification for investment of cannabis-related companies. Employees who have access to classified information and hold a sensitive position “may be impacted negatively should that individual knowingly and directly invest in stocks or business ventures that specifically pertain to marijuana growers and retailers while the cultivation and distribution of marijuana remains illegal under the Controlled Substances Act,” the memo explained. However, should an employee not knowingly invest in a cannabis-related endeavor, it would not be held against them.