FBI Director Won’t Apologize for Marijuana Comments

James Comey attempts to set the record straight about his opinion of his agency’s anti-cannabis hiring policies.

National Journal
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Dustin Volz
May 21, 2014, 8:28 a.m.

FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey doesn’t like weed, and he’s not about to change his agency’s ban on hir­ing em­ploy­ees who have re­cently in­haled.

But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to stop mak­ing jokes about it.

Dur­ing an over­sight hear­ing of the Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day, Sen. Jeff Ses­sions poin­tedly asked Comey to cla­ri­fy re­cent com­ments the dir­ect­or made about his agency’s hir­ing policies. Comey earli­er this week said he may be open to loosen­ing his agency’s hir­ing policies in or­der to at­tract top stoner tal­ent to bet­ter fight cy­ber­crim­in­als.

“Do you un­der­stand that that could be in­ter­preted as one more ex­ample of lead­er­ship in Amer­ica dis­miss­ing the ser­i­ous­ness of marijuana use and that could un­der­mine our goal not to con­vince young people to go down a dan­ger­ous path?” the Alabama Re­pub­lic­an asked.

“Very much, Sen­at­or,” Comey replied. But he quickly ad­ded: “I am de­term­ined not to lose my sense of hu­mor. But, un­for­tu­nately, there I was try­ing to be both ser­i­ous and funny.”

Comey’s testi­mony fol­lows a Wall Street Journ­al story that quoted the dir­ect­or say­ing he was “grap­pling with the ques­tion right now” as to wheth­er to change his agency’s marijuana policies, which cur­rently bar ap­plic­ants from be­ing con­sidered for job open­ings if they have smoked marijuana with­in the past three years.

Comey told a con­fer­ence at­tendee at the White Col­lar Crime In­sti­tute that a friend should ap­ply even des­pite his re­cent drug use, be­cause “I have to hire a great work­force to com­pete with those cy­ber crim­in­als, and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the in­ter­view,” ac­cord­ing to The Journ­al.

But dur­ing his testi­mony Wed­nes­day, Comey made clear that he was wax­ing “philo­soph­ic and funny” to make a point about a “time when young peoples’ at­ti­tudes about marijuana and our states’ at­ti­tudes about marijuana are lead­ing more and more of them to try it.”

“I am ab­so­lutely dead set against us­ing marijuana,” Comey ad­ded. “I don’t want young people to use marijuana; it’s against the law.”¦ I did not say I’m go­ing to change that ban.”

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials for years have com­plained about the chal­lenges of at­tract­ing premi­er tal­ent in­to pub­lic ser­vice, par­tic­u­larly in the tech realm. Com­pet­ing with Sil­ic­on Val­ley and start-ups that of­ten pay bet­ter — and have less strident man­dates on em­ploy­ee be­ha­vi­or — are of­ten cited as reas­ons for the “tal­ent gap.”