If You Use Marijuana, You Can't Be A Spy
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Millions of people legally use marijuana under the laws of their home state. However, if they currently enjoy cannabis, they might want to forget the idea of ever becoming a spy working with the U.S. government. That’s because federal law still views what they’re doing as illegal. The CIA cannot hire people who commit federal crimes.
In a strange example of how federal marijuana law keeps bumping up against state marijuana laws, the CIA used its Ask Molly blog to address whether someone using marijuana is fit to work for the agency. The answer, unfortunately for cannabis users, is “no.”
In responding to the question, Molly Hale — the pseudonym used by different CIA employees who have written the blog over the years — wrote that while the drug policy might seem “a bit archaic,” CIA officers often handle sensitive, classified information. The CIA said there are “consequences of granting access to the wrong person.”
The blog immediately added: “I’m not asserting that those who have experimented with drugs are in some way bad or unworthy, but a willingness to break federal law to engage in illicit drug use can be used as a measure of someone’s fitness to hold a security clearance.”
That said, marijuana use is OK if it happened more than 12 months ago.
The Ask Molly blog has been around for a few years. It’s occasionally answered questions about the CIA, which itself has been around since 1947. The agency collects and analyzes global intelligence in the interest of national security. In other words, they’re spies.
In April, the blog fielded this question: “I would love to join the CIA, but I’ve done illegal drugs in the past. Is there any path forward for me at CIA?” The writer signed it, Eager to Serve.
In response, Molly wrote that past drug use does not preclude you from working for the CIA. However, she went on to write that “generally speaking, to be eligible for CIA employment, applicants must not have used illegal drugs within the past 12 months.”
The blog also made certain to note that this applies to marijuana use. Even if an applicant lives in a state where marijuana is legal, they cannot become employed by the CIA because “state laws do not supersede those of the federal government.”
This issue keeps coming up with federal workers.
The CIA seemed open-minded about marijuana when compared to proclamations from other agencies. Last year, after Congress made hemp legal and hemp-derived CBD products began hitting the market, some agencies warned employees to not use them.
Keep in mind that CBD products, by law, can contain no more than 0.3 percent THC, the chemical in marijuana that causes the “high.” But NASA warned its employees that CBD use could cost them their jobs if they failed a drug test. The U.S. Navy warned sailors that using CBD products could result in “a discharge characterized as ‘Other Than Honorable’”, which impacts veteran benefits and future employment.
The Department of Defense, Air Force, and Coast Guard have issued similar warnings.
Until federal law is changed, the clashes between state and federal law are expected to continue, from the impact on financial services for banks to issues with people crossing state lines to buy cannabis. And, apparently, on your ability to become a spy.