- The White House reportedly pushed out some staffers for past marijuana use.
- The Daily Beast reported that the moves blindsided some Biden aides.
- While 14 states and D.C. have legalized recreational use, it’s illegal at the federal level.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The White House under President Joe Biden has pushed out and sidelined some staffers for disclosing their past recreational use of marijuana, including in states that have legalized recreational use of the drug, the Daily Beast reported Thursday.
Three sources told the outlet that several staffers have had their employment status affected – including unexpectedly being asked to resign, pushed aside, or relegated to remote-work positions – after voluntarily disclosing recreational-marijuana use.
While 14 states and the District of Columbia have now legalized recreational use of the drug, marijuana possession is still a federal crime and is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“It’s exclusively targeting younger staff and staff who came from states where it was legal,” one person told the outlet.
Some staffers felt the White House pulled a bait and switch after the Biden administration indicated it, unlike past administrations, would waive the requirement for some high-level White House staffers who had used marijuana in a “limited capacity” to receive a top-secret security clearance.
In order to qualify for a top-secret security clearance, staffers must fill out the SF-86, a detailed form that asks about past drug use, among other things. Making false statements on the form is a felony.
The White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Friday morning that “as a result” of the White House changing its posture on marijuana use for top staffers, “more people will serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use.”
She added: “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.”
It is unclear how many were asked to resign or pushed aside for other factors or discrepancies on their background check in addition to their marijuana use.
Biden himself changed his tune on marijuana legalization after previously taking a hard-line stance on drugs during his time in the US Senate. Biden was one of the key shepherds of a controversial 1994 crime bill and said in a 2001 Senate hearing that he believed local officials should criminalize rave parties and “lock up” promoters in an effort to crack down on ecstasy.
A White House spokesperson told the Daily Beast that the administration 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. “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 White House did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Insider.