A number of White House staffers have reportedly been suspended or asked to resign due to their past marijuana use, despite initial promise it would be overlooked.
The Daily Beast reports that dozens of young staff members of Biden’s White House have been fired or forced to work remotely, although the Biden administration had promised them that any recreational use of the drug would not disqualify them from working there. The promise-breaking policy has even impacted staffers who used marijuana recreationally in states where it is legal. In an official document they filled as part of a background check to work at the White House, they revealed their past marijuana use and were promptly fired, or punished in another form such as probation.
“There were one-on-one calls with individual affected staffers—rather, ex-staffer," said one White House employee who was asked to resign. "Nothing was ever explained. ... The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained." TMZ reports that White House Director of Management and Administration Anne Filipic was reportedly behind firing or sidelining many of these workers.
When the news surfaced, White House press secretary Jen Psaki chimed in on Twitter. "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," she wrote. "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."
The White House first said it intended to look past marijuana use, regardless of whether in a legal or illegal state, for potential appointees in February. “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," said a White House spokesperson, disputing the "dozens" figure that has popped up in reports on the situation.
Joe Biden has, historically, not exactly been a fan of marijuana. Throughout his political career, he has expressed the long-debunked “Gateway Theory” that claims the use of weed could lead to harder drug use in the future. Medicinal marijuana is currently legal under a doctor’s recommendation in 35 states, while it’s legal for recreational use in 14 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. territories such as Guam.
Just last month, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed three bills that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Nebraska’s Republican governor Pete Rickets, meanwhile, said that legalizing marijuana would “kill your kids.” Marijuana is still a divisive topic among politicians, and so far Biden has only indicated that he’s on board for decriminalization over general legalization.