"Dozens" of White House staffers have either been suspended, asked to resign or placed in a remote work program due to either past or current cannabis use for medical and recreational purposes, despite past indications from the Biden administration that it would be more lenient on the issue, the Daily Beast reported on Thursday.
Three people familiar with the situation told the Daily Beast that while candidates for White House positions were initially told that cannabis would not necessarily be an immediate disqualifier for staff, in keeping with Biden's promise to decriminalize recreational cannabis, many who applied and were accepted for roles have experienced issues.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Friday that the new administration was indeed more lenient than in the past and that of the hundreds of people hired in the administration, only five who had started working at the White House are “no longer employed as a result of this policy.”
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,” Psaki told the Daily Beast in a statement in response to the report.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.— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) March 19, 2021
The report found that the policies disproportionally affected people with disabilities and all medical cannabis patients, younger applicants and any applicants whose past use came exclusively in one or more of the 14 states where recreational cannabis is legal - which also includes Washington DC itself.
If you were wondering, this is one of the reasons I never considered applying for a position in the Biden-Harris administration Those of us who use medical cannabis simply are not welcome https://t.co/uOh746G2CP— Matthew Cortland (@mattbc) March 19, 2021
The discrepancy between state legalizations and the US' federal criminalization policies provides results which are especially discriminatory for residents of Oregon, who also decriminalized the use of certain psychedelic mushrooms and compounds last November, the past use of which completely bars candidates from applying to White House positions.
The resignation requests seem to stem from a lack of clear policy guidelines for cannabis use for past or current users at the White House, which had until now mostly relied on the "honor system," unlike agencies such as the NSA or FBI which have clear guidelines regarding past and current use, the Beast reported.
A White House spokesperson told the Daily Beast that it is “committed to bringing the best people into government—especially the young people whose commitment to public service can deepen in these positions,” noting that the White House’s approach to past cannabis use is much more flexible than previous administrations.
In the earliest days of the Trump era, multiple mid-to-high ranking staff members who had already been accepted had their jobs pulled by White House brass after flunking urine tests that showed signs of recent cannabis use, a person with knowledge of the matter reportedly told the Daily Beast.
However, the president still remains the final authority on who can receive a security clearance to work at the White House, holding the power to overrule agency judgments on eligibility, as President Donald Trump did when granting Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner a top-secret clearance, over the objections of the intelligence community and his own counsel.