The FBI’s jobs page makes it pretty clear how the agency feels about marijuana: “You can easily determine whether you meet the FBI’s illegal drug policy by answering the following questions.” The list’s first question: “Have you used marijuana at all within the last three years?”
Government agencies are some of the strictest of employers when it comes to drug testing. The CIA’s policy, for example, prohibits marijuana use in the previous 12 months, but any prior drug use is “carefully evaluated.”
Yet news that the FBI might be having a hard time recruiting cyber-security experts due to a strict “no marijuana” rule raises the question of how applicant pools will be affected by the growing popularity and legalization of marijuana. Last year, FBI chief James B. Comey made comments that the bureau might loosen the rules to recruit hackers, though he later backtracked. And one police force in Idaho said that its recruitment efforts are set back by its own drug policy, which mandates that anyone who has used marijuana in the past three years can’t be hired.
With nearly half of Americans reporting that they have tried marijuana and more than a third of college students having used it in the last 12 months, any organization—in the public or private sector—with strict anti-marijuana policies could be missing out on a significant portion of the talent pool.
The wave of legalization that has spread across the U.S.—marijuana is legal for recreational use in Colorado, Washington, and the District of Columbia, with Alaska and Oregon set to join them in 2016—will clash with zero-tolerance drug policies that have been around for decades. With so much cultural inertia behind these policies, it’s hard to see that changing anytime soon, even as the percentage of drug tests in the U.S. that were positive rose for the first time in a decade, to 3.7 percent. In Colorado and Washington, positive marijuana rates jumped to over 20 percent after legalization, and yet few major firms in those states are relaxing their drug policies.
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