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October 17, 2005 - News & Advance (VA)

FBI Dilemma Illustrates Hypocritical Drug Policies

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There's some great news for former potheads: you might have a chance to work for the FBI.

In yet another example of the U.S. government's bipolar stance on drugs, the FBI is considering relaxing hiring regulations on former drug users.

The CIA, State Department and other government agencies already have less stringent drug policies than the FBI, and the FBI wants to level the playing field.

So here it is: if you smoked dope or even crack in college, and presumably didn't get caught, and now have stopped using illegal drugs, the FBI might give you a shot at intelligence work. The change would not apply to special agents or "G-men," who would still be subject to stricter rules.

Even the FBI's current rules are a little puzzling. If it has been more than three years since you smoked marijuana and you never smoked more than 15 times, you're OK. Likewise if 10 years have passed since you used cocaine, heroin or other illegal drugs, and you only used five times, you're FBI material.

Is there a little hypocrisy here? How can we say it's OK to smoke when you're young and foolish, so now you can help us bust other people's kids (often poor and black) or maybe nab some of those nasty dealers (often foreign)?

If drug use is considered a rite of passage for upwardly mobile college students, why are any young people jailed for drug use? Why aren't they given the same pass, and judged merely young and foolish?

Here's what the nation's former drug czar has to say about the FBI's quandary: "... there should be no hard and fast rule that suggests you can't ever have used drugs," said retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey. "As long as it's clear that's behind you and you're overwhelmingly likely to remain drug free, you should be eligible."

Wow! Youthful experimentation is now being condoned by the former head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Can legalization of marijuana be far behind?

Actually, yes. The same government that wants to bend the rules for national security employees doesn't want people to smoke pot for medicinal purposes. Even though marijuana has been proven to ease the pain of glaucoma, that's no excuse to let anyone use the evil weed in old age.

These mixed messages on drug use only show how impossible it is to wage a successful war on drugs. A nation that displays such ambivalence about drugs obviously needs to do some real self-examination about what its priorities are.

An estimated 14.6 million Americans 12 and older were using marijuana in 2004. Marijuana accounts for the largest portion of positive workplace drug tests conducted each year.

It's time to have open, honest dialog on marijuana and other drug use. Surely if future FBI employees can smoke dope, people dying of cancer should be able to, as well.

Any type of drug use, including alcohol, carries risks. Instead of just saying no, we need to do a better job educating citizens on those risks and helping them break addictions.

Locking only certain drug users in the slammer is just wrong.

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