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Law Enforcement: FBI Lowers Bar on Past Marijuana Use by Would-Be Agents

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #496)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

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."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Under Lautenburg you cant buy a gun if you have a mistnomeaner pot charge from 10 years ago,but you can join the FBI and the government will buy you one!!

Fri, 08/03/2007 - 4:20pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Wow! That's a hopeful sign. It will allow more applicant to be honest! We still have a long way to go to get out of this hole!

Uncle Jim

Fri, 08/03/2007 - 4:34pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

this is great, before you could have an Einstein that the FBI was not able to hire because some kid was thrown into the college culture and smoked pot, the person could have been the genius with the fbi and solved a lot of problems. Same goes with 1 time dwi offenders, one offense and he cannot get admitted to medical school even though he has a 4.0...he could be the one who cures cancer


Sun, 08/05/2007 - 11:43am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Your Zero Tolerance post is a joke. Get a life you crazy son of a btch

Thu, 09/13/2007 - 3:00pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

There is actually a few studies demonstrating the long-term affects regarding weed usage. I have researched it thoroughly because I have smoked in the past and I was wondering if my past party choices were holding me back or causing me to lose what little intelligence I do have. Unfortunately it does have an affect on the amagdala (I think that is how you spell it), which is relative to your emotional strength, aggression, and fear. All those things could be reflected in working for th FBI at some point. I knew laughing for 5 minutes about how a dog ate a skittle of the floor before anybody could stop them couldn't be harmless. But that was some good sh**!

Thu, 08/14/2008 - 2:49am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

*effect. Pot is pretty harmless. However, apparently you DO need the little bit of intelligence you have, since you can't differentiate between, affect, and effect.

Mon, 12/14/2009 - 9:44am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

My son wants to be an FBI agent and just started smoking pot (three months ago). What are his chances of being an agent???? Did they really lower the bar on past marijuana usage....

Thu, 10/02/2008 - 11:55am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I forgot to mention he is a senior in high school.... straight A's and is very interested in criminal justice.... he still has college and plans on majoring in criminal law....

Thu, 10/02/2008 - 11:57am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm the same. I smoke occasionally and I'm a senior in high school considering a future as an FBI special agent. IF this article is accurate, as I hope it is, then no his chances should not be jeopardized. We 17 year olds tend to be vulnerable to periods of experimentation and for now it should not be considered a door-closer. As long as we "straighten out" within 3 years of applying for a job with the FBI, we should be completely fine.

Oh, and to the other guy:
It's spelled "amygdala." And you CAN'T be serious about actually believing pot can lower your intelligence.
Examples of smart people who have allegedly smoked pot:
Einstein, Carl Sagan, Shakespeare

Wed, 11/19/2008 - 4:55am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Okay, so the old policy on marijuana was no more than 15 times. And now they said they lowered it. But what does experimentation mean?! I've done it maybe 5 times and I'd like to do it a little bit more, but I'm not sure if I'm jeopardizing my spot in the FBI if I continue. I'm not sure what to think. Any input? Preferably from someone who knows for sure

Thu, 01/29/2009 - 2:42pm Permalink

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