In the midst of a campaign to hire hundreds of new agents, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has loosened its policies on past drug use by potential applicants. The old policy, in effect since 1994, disqualified applicants who had smoked marijuana more than 15 times or ever used any illegal drug.
Under the new policy, unannounced but in effect since January, applicants who have not used marijuana for the past three years or for more than just "experimentation" will not be barred. Applicants who have not used any other illegal drug for at least 10 years will not be disqualified, either.
FBI Deputy Director Jeff Berkin told USA Today that the previous system had become "arbitrary" and it was difficult for applicants to pass polygraph tests about drug use because they could not remember how many times they had smoked pot.
"It encourages honesty and allows us to look at the whole person," Berkin said as his agency sought to increase the number of applicants for the 221 agent positions and 121 intelligence analyst positions it has open.
The FBI is only the latest law enforcement agency to amend its policies on past marijuana use. Increasing numbers of departments are reporting problems with applicants being excluded over past pot-smoking, and increasingly, departments are loosening their standards. Even the drug czar's office understands.
"Increasingly, the goal for the screening of security clearance applicants is whether you are a current drug user, rather than whether you used in the past," said Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. "It's not whether you have smoked pot four times or 16 times 20 years ago. It's about whether you smoked last week and lied about it."