Dozens of White House staffers have been suspended, placed on remote work, or asked to resign due to their past cannabis use, according to a Daily Beast report. In some cases, the staffers were told prior cannabis use would be overlooked by the administration and in some cases, the use was exclusive to one of the 14 states with legal products.
“There were one-on-one calls with individual affected staffers – rather, ex-staffers. I was asked to resign. … The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained.” – A former White House staffer to the Daily Beast
A White House spokesperson for the Biden Administration appeared to dodge the issue in an interview with the Daily Beast, saying that President Joe Biden’s team 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 spokesperson said in the interview. “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 report notes that some of the staffers’ punishment could be due to inconsistencies on the security form about their cannabis use, rather than their actual cannabis use, such as simply misstating the last time they had consumed it.
Tommy Vietor, who served on the 2008 Obama team and later as a National Security Council spokesperson, called it “absurd” that cannabis use “is still part of the 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,” he said.
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