Senators are redoubled efforts to ensure that prior marijuana use does not disqualify potential members of the intelligence community.
According to a press release from the office of Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the fiscal 2024 Intelligence Authorization Act was passed last week by a vote of 17-0. It includes a provision to “prohibit the denial of security clearances for potential intelligence community employees based solely on past cannabis use.” one of the committee’s members.
In a statement, Wyden stated, “It’s a commonsense change to ensure the [intelligence community] can recruit the most capable people possible.”
Sens. D-Colo., Michael Bennet, and the provision was cosponsored by Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico. Bennet’s office claimed that the measure would “modernize workforce recruitment.” The Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2024’s text has not yet been made available.
Wyden and other lawmakers tried to include a broader provision on past cannabis use in the fiscal 2023 Intelligence Authorization Act, but that provision was scaled back, according to Marijuana Moment, and then it was ultimately dropped from the final version after at least two Republican senators opposed it, The Wall Street Journal reported in December.
The federal government has made some progress in recent years toward loosening cannabis regulations.
“Prior recreational marijuana use by an individual may be relevant to adjudications [to have access to classified information or eligibility to have a sensitive position], but not determinative,” Avril Haines, director of national intelligence, wrote in an unclassified memo to agency heads in December 2021.
“We recognize, frankly, that many states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana use and wanted to be sure that we’re not disqualifying people solely for that purpose in that context,” Haines stated during a hearing in March.
“It is administratively easier to have it in law than to try to convince a [director of national intelligence] successor that they should continue the practice,” Ronald Sanders, who retired from the intelligence community as chief human capital officer in 2010 after 37 years of service, previously stated to Government Executive.
According to a report from Marijuana Moment, federal agencies like the CIA and FBI have relaxed their stances on marijuana use. In February 2021, the then-acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management, Kathleen McGettigan, stated in a guidance document that previous marijuana use should not automatically disqualify individuals from applying for federal jobs.