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."