Former White House Staffers Say The Biden Administration Punished Them For Past Use Of Marijuana
The White House says a waiver can be granted to those who used marijuana on a “limited” basis.
March 20, 2021 at 3:56 pm
President Joe Biden's administration is under scrutiny after former staffers outed the White House for its policy on marijuana use, saying some members of the team were suspended, asked to resign or placed in a remote work program for their history of using cannabis.
According to the sources who spoke with The Daily Beast, several staffers faced consequences after completing a background check for a position in the White House and admitting that they have previously used marijuana. The employees were asked to resign after they were initially told by executives ahead of formally joining the administration that they would likely overlook their past drug use, the former staffers added.
“There were one-on-one calls with individual affected staffers—rather, ex-staffers,” a former White House staffer told The Daily Beast. “I was asked to resign.”
The source added that “nothing was ever explained” on the calls which were led by Anne Filipic, White House director of management and administration.
“The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained,” the former staffer said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to the allegations in a tweet on Friday, writing that past marijuana use wouldn’t automatically disqualify staff from serving in the White House.
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. (https://t.co/DG3YuqejtZ)— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) March 19, 2021
The press secretary further explained the policy in a statement to The Daily Beast.
“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," she said. "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.”
According to NBC News, marijuana use is legal in several states, but still illegal under federal law, making it a potentially disqualifying factor in obtaining security clearances. The White House passed a policy in February to address the challenge, saying a waiver can be granted to those who used marijuana on a “limited” basis and to those who are in positions that don’t require a security clearance.
The policy, which only applies to marijuana use, also states that some appointees would still not be granted a waiver given the extent of their acknowledged marijuana use.
One White House official said the new guidelines effectively protect the "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.”
Tommy Vietor, who served on the team of former president Barack Obama, said it's absurd that marijuana use is still part of a security clearance background check.
“To me, marijuana use is completely irrelevant when you’re trying to decide whether an individual should be trusted with national security information,” Vietor told The Daily Beast.
The sources who spoke with the publication are especially concerned about younger staffers and applicants who come from states where marijuana is legal.
“It’s exclusively targeting younger staff and staff who came from states where it was legal,” one person said.