Despite recent comments from the director of the FBI, the agency probably won't be facing up to modern realities by revising their zero-tolerance drug policy towards potential applicants anytime soon.
At the annual White Collar Crime Institute conference on Monday, James Comey was quoted as saying: “I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview." The FBI is looking to fill as many as 2,000 positions in 2014, many of which will be tech jobs focusing on fighting cyber crimes, Comey said. The only problem, however, is that many hackers also tend to smoke weed.
According to the FBI’s website, the agency has a strict policy against hiring anyone who has smoked weed in the past three years.
But don’t expect federal agents to be handing out pot brownies in the lobby of the FBI headquarters anytime soon. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was quick to rebuke Comey's comments saying: “Do you understand that that could be interpreted as one more example of leadership in America dismissing the seriousness of marijuana use?"
This caused the FBI director today to quickly backtrack and explain that he was only joking.
"I am absolutely dead set against using marijuana. I don’t want young people to use marijuana. I did not say that I'm going to change that ban,” Comey said. “I said I have to grapple with the change in my workforce."
The topic was originally brought up when a member of the audience asked Comey if his friend should still consider applying for an FBI job, even though he had smoked weed. In response Comey told him, “He should go ahead and apply.”
Comey might have finally realized what many others have known for a while — it is pretty difficult to find a cyber whiz who is both talented enough to work for the FBI and has not smoked a joint in the past three years.
Pot is deeply engrained in tech culture and many have commented on the rise of the legal marijuana industry in conjunction with the tech boom in recent years. Mark Johnson, CEO of a tech startup in San Francisco, told Business Week that he smokes daily and that pot is openly accepted in the world of Silicon Valley.
The Bay Area is also home to a high concentration of marijuana dispensaries, many of which cater to the tech industry.
If the FBI chooses to relax their drug policy, it would not be the first time. Up until seven years ago, the FBI barred hiring anyone who had smoked weed more than 15 times in their life, or had tried other illegal drugs more than five times. They have since changed that policy to limiting those who have used marijuana in the past three years and other banned narcotics in the past 10 years.
The FBI's stance on drugs, however, has never been especially lenient. Former director of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover once famously cautioned against the deadly harms of "false courage from a marijuana cigarette."
Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928
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