You are here
Home > News > Senate Committee Passes Amendment to Loosen Restrictions for Applicants With Cannabis History

Senate Committee Passes Amendment to Loosen Restrictions for Applicants With Cannabis History

On June 22, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence approved the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023. This Act would prohibit government intelligence agencies, such as Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and others from discriminating against applicants for jobs based on past cannabis use.

Sen. Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is a top senator. This committee also adopted protections for whistleblowers as well as strengthened cybersecurity 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.”

This press release explains the precise provision regarding 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 TwitterThe amendment was supported by Senator Martin Heinrich, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and other Senators. “Big thanks to @MartinHeinrich @SenGillibrand for their support of this common-sense provision, which will ensure the intelligence community can continue to recruit the most capable people possible.”

Although the entire 16 member committee unanimously approved the amendment, Senate and House of Representatives must continue to support it as well as President Joe Biden’s signature before it is officially adopted. According to Wall Street JournalThe amendment has not been made public.

To increase its applicant pool, the Federal Bureau of Investigation updated their hiring guidelines in July 2021. “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).”

A memo was issued by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines in December 2021 that provided guidelines on marijuana consumption. “…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.

Clearance applicants should not consume cannabis due to its federally-illegal status. “…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.”

It also clarified how to invest in marijuana-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. It is possible for an employee to not invest in cannabis-related ventures, but it will not be considered against them.