Secret Service relaxes marijuana policy in bid to swell ranks

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Story highlights

  • The change to the drug policy is an acknowledgment that marijuana is more prevalent in today's society
  • It's a shift that puts the force in line with other federal law enforcement agencies

(CNN)The Secret Service is relaxing its drug policy for potential hires, as its new director, Randolph Alles, laid out a plan to swell the agency's ranks by more than 3,000 in the coming years.

Speaking Thursday to reporters in his first press briefing since his appointment, Alles, 38 days into his new job, described a force of "very dedicated" agents facing near unsustainable levels of round-the-clock protective coverage.
    The change to the drug policy, which went into effect in the past month, is an acknowledgment that marijuana is more prevalent in today's society, officials said, and will allow for a younger generation of applicants, many of whom have experimented with the drug when they were teenagers, access to the hiring process.
    Following a "whole-person concept" in hiring, the Secret Service will no longer disqualify an applicant who has used marijuana more than a certain number of times, instead potentially allowing a candidate who admits to using the drug, taking into consideration the time between his or her last use and their application to the agency.
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    It's a shift that puts the force in line with other federal law enforcement agencies, the agency said.
    Despite the change, the process to be hired to a job that could position you within feet of a head of state remains strict. A polygraph test is critical, and there is no consideration of downgrading its role in the process, as has been discussed by other enforcement groups facing staffing droughts. Credit checks and vision tests are also given high priority to recruits.
    But with exceeding overtime requests for officers and an ever-present terror threat, Alles is looking to hire.
    "We need more people. The mission has changed," Alles said, citing post-9/11 threats that include terror groups like al Qaeda and ISIS, as well has homegrown terrorists. "It's more dynamic and way more dangerous than it has been in years past," Alles said.
    Alles himself was hired, he said, after only meeting with the President once. The interview was the only time Alles has met the President, he said. But many of his officers have certainly become acquainted with Donald Trump, his family and his many properties. Law requires 24-hour protection of members of the President's family, as well as the properties that he could be using, even if no one is inside.
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    "I think between that and the fact that he has a larger family, that's just more stress on the organization. We recognize that," Alles said, and said he's been allocating resources in accordance.
    Trump has often spent his weekends at Mar-a-Lago, his waterfront property in Florida, as well as his golf course in New Jersey. He hasn't yet made a visit to Camp David, the military installation in Maryland that's acted as a retreat for many presidents in the past.
    "Obviously, we won't be able to dictate his travel," Alles said. "We interface with his staff on how they schedule things and what works better and causes us less resource demands."
    What has remained constant across administrations is the number of threats made against the President. Daily, six to eight threats come into Secret Service against Trump -- an average range that's remained steady for the past 10 years, Alles said.
    Two days after comedian Kathy Griffin apologized for a gruesome photoshoot involving a bloodied mock-Trump head, Secret Service officials declined to comment on the case, but normal reviews of similar actions in the past have warranted an official interview.