Senate Green Lights Cannabis Use for Security Clearances in Latest Defense Bill

hafakot /
hafakot /

On July 27th, the US Senate put the finishing touches on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and approved the overall legislation. One of the main features of the act is preventing the CIA and NSA from denying a security clearance due to marijuana use. This came as a part of the inclusion of the whole Intelligence Authorization Act, which had been amended back in June to include this provision.

Previously this has been attempted to include any past or prior use, but it was pulled back via a second-degree amendment. Previously two GOP senators refused to discuss any marijuana provisions but ultimately reconsidered this time around.

As written, it reads, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the head of an element of the intelligence community may not make a determination to deny eligibility for access to classified information to an individual based solely on the use of cannabis by the individual prior to the submission of the application for a security clearance by the individual.”

In the House, lawmakers were passing legislation to prevent people from being denied federal employment or a security clearance due to marijuana use. They also are seeking to provide relief for people who lost opportunities in the past for marijuana use.

Called the “Cannabis Users’ Restoration of Eligibility (CURE) Act,” sponsored by Reps. Jamin Raskin (D-MD), and Nancy Mace (R-SC), the act removed marijuana use, past or present, from denying someone for a security clearance. Within a year of becoming official, all agencies would be required to design a process to review past decisions for denying security clearances or job offers due to cannabis. Backdating to January 1, 2008, the act would ensure one of the heaviest impacted groups of the law currently written, Veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Being required to maintain those sites, people would receive a reconsideration of their clearance application within 90 days if it was a denial due to marijuana use alone. If denied, they can appeal to a Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Within 120 days of their receipt, they would determine if it was due to marijuana alone, in their opinion. If so, they would be ordering the federal organization to reconsider the person for their clearance.

Time and again, they have been overlooked as the VA refuses to provide marijuana medication, and if they are honest about their use when attempting to get government employment, they would be denied. Given the number of veterans who have been brought back from the brink brought on by PTSD, some sort of reform must be passed.

Having Rep. Pace on this act is a huge step. Despite the reluctance of South Carolina to embrace any cannabis legalization, their federally elected official stepping up to say enough is enough is a sign that the state is ready to change its stance. Watching this unveil is also proof that this will ultimately be a very hot area of contestation in the 2024 Presidential elections. The American people are beyond ready for legalization.

Morgan Fox, political director of NORML, has been lobbying for this change as well as for cannabis legalization for years.

“For too long, the federal government has been denying Americans civil service opportunities solely because of its outdated attitudes toward cannabis and those who consume it. Denying these millions of Americans’ consideration for employment and security clearances is discriminatory, and it unnecessarily shrinks the talent pool available for these important jobs. NORML commends the sponsors for working to undo this policy and replace it with fair and sensible hiring and clearance practices that will put America on much stronger footing on the global stage.”

This change is beyond overdue. Fighting a war on drugs has cost the American people far too much. Especially when it comes to cannabis.