A handful of now-former White House staffers were reportedly fired from their jobs after admitting to using marijuana in the past, despite indications from the Biden administration that prior use of the drug would be largely overlooked.
The Daily Beast reports that “dozens of young White House staffers have been suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program due to past marijuana use,” prompting frustration from aides who were under the impression “that recreational use of cannabis would not be immediately disqualifying for would-be personnel.”
The policy was first revealed in an NBC News report published in late February.
For its Thursday report, the Daily Beast reportedly spoke with three individuals who were “familiar with the situation,” one of whom was a White House former staffer who said they were “asked to resign” over what they described as a vague policy, at best.
“Nothing was ever explained,” the source told the Daily Beast. “The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained.”
In a tweet posted Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration 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” before admitting that nearly a half-dozen aides had been let go.
“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,” Psaki insisted.
Of course, critics have pointed out that now-Vice President Kamala Harris once admitted that she had used marijuana herself. “I have [smoked marijuana]. And I inhaled. I did inhale,” she said in a 2019 interview, according to Fox News. “I think it gives a lot of people joy. And we need more joy in the world.”
The White House responds
In a more formal statement to the Daily Beast, the Biden White House said 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.”
“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 White House added, according to the Washington Examiner.
“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,” the statement said.
Try telling that to the staffers who got the boot.