An undisclosed number of young staffers in President Joe Biden’s White House feel betrayed after facing disciplinary action for past marijuana use, despite having been told during the transition period that prior use of marijuana would not be an immediately disqualifying factor for employment, the New York Post reported.
According to the Post, several staffers have been demoted, asked to resign, or otherwise punished after truthfully disclosing past marijuana use during the background check portion of their application to serve in the White House.
That includes staffers from the 14 states where marijuana has been decriminalized or even legalized, though the drug remains prohibited at the federal level.
The Biden administration had announced previously that it had relaxed its guidelines on prior marijuana use — which used to automatically disqualify an individual from employment — to instead allow for previous “limited” use, provided the individual wasn’t seeking a high-level security clearance, would agree to cease all consumption and would submit to regular drug tests.
Policy “never explained”
The apparent about-face was first reported by The Daily Beast, which noted that while a few staffers had been asked to resign, others were demoted, suspended or assigned to work remotely.
Those staffers claim they had been told informally by transition officials that the incoming administration would likely “overlook” the recreational use of marijuana by prospective employees.
According to several unnamed sources, at least one of whom claimed to have been forced to resign, the sudden change came at the behest of White House Director of Management and Administration Anne Filipic.
“The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained,” the former staffer told The Daily Beast. That staffer added, “It’s exclusively targeting younger staff and staff who came from states where it was legal.”
According to a statement to the media outlet from White House press secretary Jen Psaki, only five staffers had been asked to resign and that, while she wouldn’t get into specifics, “additional factors” were likely at play for the disciplinary measures.
As noted by Fox News, the development creates a unique dilemma for President Joe Biden, in that his own vice president, Kamala Harris, is on record bragging about her past use of marijuana, Fox News reported.
While she was campaigning to be president, Harris admitted to recreational use of marijuana in college during a radio interview. That admission pairs with her prior expressed support as a senator for legislation that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.
Where things get interesting is that Harris, as vice president, has a top-level security clearance, which should have been denied to Harris due to her prior use of the still-illicit drug, based on the Biden White House’s own guidelines.