There was once a time when a person with a history of marijuana use was automatically disqualified from the hiring pool if they set out to become a police officer. It just didn’t make sense to put former stoners in the big blue suit and unleash them into the streets to crack the skulls of their previous drug dealers. In a lot of ways, this is still the status quo.
Most police forces are still doing their best to avoid recruits that have a history of cannabis consumption. But in some parts of the country, law enforcement agencies are taking a more lenient stance on past drug use. It’s either that or watch lawlessness unfold while good men and women remain unemployed.
Utah is one of the latest states to change the rules to some degree regarding law enforcement applicants that have smoked weed. Although candidates are still required to reveal any past marijuana use, the information they divulge during the hiring process might not weaken their chances at getting the job.
But Utah’s police force is still not ready to give the average high timer a badge and a gun.
Only the medicinal use of cannabis is something that the agency is prepared to embrace. In the interest of accountability, candidates must list the specific medical cannabis products they have used in the past. As long as those products are fit for consumption under the guidelines maintained by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, applicants “are not required to have a two-year wait to enter the academy,” Major Scott Stephenson, who oversees the state’s police academy, told the Salt Lake Tribune.
All marijuana use, he added, will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
In other parts of the country, past cannabis use is no longer a disqualifier for police candidates. In 2018, the Chicago Police Department, which is the second largest police force in the country, revealed that it was no longer scratching applicants with a history of marijuana use. It’s not that the force is looking to hire cops that were high just last week, but people who may have experimented with the herb in their youth are no longer being turned away. The change came just a couple of years after former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel said he was open to police recruits that may have been convicted of a minor drug offense. Interestingly, this policy may become even less restrictive in the future. Illinois just became the 11th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Other jurisdictions are taking a similar approach to recruiting police officers with a pot-past. Maryland will allow a prospective officer to have smoked weed within the past three years. This is a considerable change from the time when the admission of regular cannabis use after the age of 21 was an automatic disqualifier. “It gives us a greater pool of police applicants to consider as we are at a very critical time in our profession’s history and we want to identify the right people,” said former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.
Atlanta is another city that has moved in this direction. As long as a candidate hasn’t smoked marijuana in the past two years, they are good to go. Police agencies in parts of Colorado have progressed, as well.
All of these changes are taking place as a result of America’s increasing cop shortage. All across the country applications to become a police officer are down.
Even the FBI has eased its drug policy in recent years to widen the recruitment pool. Applicants that are weed free for three years are still given consideration. The Secret Service is another agency that has amended its stance on weed.
The pot policies of law enforcement in America will undoubtedly become more relaxed each year as more of the United States moves toward legal weed. This will be even more true once the federal government legalizes nationwide. At that point, even Tommy Chong has a fighting chance at going on patrol.