As the FBI looks to hire more cybersecurity agents, it's running into a big problem: the siren song of marijuana. The FBI has a no-tolerance policy for employees using illegal drugs, but new statements by director James Comey suggest the agency is considering loosening that policy to attract employees from the cybersecurity community. To hear Comey tell it, it's a talent pool that's notorious for rampant weed-smoking. "I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cybercriminals," Comey told an audience at the New York City Bar Association, "and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview."
The bureau's weed problem is particularly severe given the rise of legal marijuana use within the US, implicating many potential FBI hackers along the way. As a result, Comey said he was "grappling with the issue" of how the bureau's policies might be amended. The statement also comes just one day after the FBI announced charges against a group of hackers working for the Chinese People's Liberation Army, for allegedly stealing trade secrets from corporations like Alcoa and Westinghouse. It is unclear whether marijuana was involved.
Update May 21st, 5:30PM: The Senate Judiciary Committee pressed Comey about his remarks on marijuana, which gained attention after their publication on Tuesday. Comey explained that the remark was meant to be funny, but he is in fact serious that he has to address a growing issue with weed use. "One of our challenges that we face is getting a good work force at the same time when young peoples' attitudes about marijuana and our states attitudes about marijuana are leading more of them to try it," he said. Comey reiterated that the FBI has a ban on hiring anyone who's used pot in the prior three years. "I did not say I'm going to change that plan. I said I have to grapple with the change in my workforce."