President Joe Biden’s White House reportedly has clamped down on staffers who admitted using marijuana in the past, even those from states where the drug has been legalized, with some being suspended or asked to resign, according to former staffers.
Although the Biden administration officially changed its marijuana guidelines to allow for "limited" use of the drug in the past, questions about past marijuana use were included on its background check form given to potential staffers. Some new hires reportedly were told that the White House would "overlook" anyone who answered yes, only to ask them to resign later.
"There were one-on-one calls with individual affected staffers — rather, ex-staffers," one former staffer told The Daily Beast. "I was asked to resign."
This staffer added "nothing was ever explained" on these calls, which White House Director of Management and Administration Anne Filipic led. "The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained."
Other staffers report being suspended or reassigned to remote work due to their past marijuana use.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Friday: "We announced a few weeks ago that the White House had worked with the security service to update the policies to ensure that past marijuana use wouldn't automatically disqualify staff from serving in the White House."
She said in a follow-up tweet, "As a result, more people will serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use. The bottom line is this: of the hundreds of people hired, only five people who had started working at the White House are no longer employed as a result of this policy."
In an additional statement sent to the Daily Beast, Psaki said, "In an effort to ensure that more people have an opportunity to serve the public, we worked in coordination with the security service to ensure that more people have the opportunity to serve than would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use. While we will not get into individual cases, there were additional factors at play in many instances for the small number of individuals who were terminated."
A spokesperson for the White House, responding to a question about the administration's staffing procedures on Thursday, said that the administration is "committed to bringing the best people into government — especially the young people whose commitment to public service can deepen in these positions," and noted that the Biden White House had a far more accepting position on marijuana use than other administrations had in the past.
"The White House's policy will maintain the absolute highest standards for service in government that the president expects from his administration, while acknowledging the reality that state and local marijuana laws have changed significantly across the country in recent years," the spokesperson continued.
"This decision was made following intensive consultation with career security officials and will effectively protect our national security while modernizing policies to ensure that talented and otherwise well-qualified applicants with limited marijuana use will not be barred from serving the American people."
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