White House Reportedly Changes Mind On Prior Marijuana Use, Excludes Multiple Prospective Staffers

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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The White House reportedly changed its mind on allowing individuals who had smoked marijuana to serve in the Biden administration, affecting multiple staffers who had disclosed previous usage.

Biden campaigned on decriminalizing marijuana use, and initially suggested that potential staffers would not be disqualified for consideration based on past use. However, multiple staffers who disclosed previous use have been placed in remote work environments, suspended or asked to resign, according to The Daily Beast.

The Biden administration decided in February to waive the requirement that White House staffers obtain a Top Secret security clearance, NBC News reported. The move was designed to ensure that “applicants with limited marijuana use [would] not be barred from” White House positions, an administration official told NBC. A White House official told NBC that some appointess would still not be given a waiver based on the extent of their reported marijuana usage.

After multiple staffers admitted to past marijuana usage, however, they were individually contacted by transition officials and asked to resign, one staffer reportedly affected by the policy told The Daily Beast. “Nothing was ever explained” on the call about the policy change, the staffer added.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged that multiple staffers were removed from positions as a result of the policy shift. She disputed The Daily Beast’s reporting on the number of staffers. Although The Daily Beast reported that dozens of staffers were impacted by the policy change, Psaki tweeted that only five staffers were removed.

“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,” Psaki tweeted.

“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,” she continued.

Other Democrats criticized Biden during the 2020 primaries for his past positions on drug use. In his role as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden helped pass laws that created the crack-powder cocaine disparity and the “three strikes” incarceration rule for felonies.

Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker slammed Biden for suggesting that marijuana is a gateway drug and that it should not be fully legalized, saying, “I thought you might have been high when you said it.” (RELATED: Joe Biden Continues Spouting Anti-Cannabis Rhetoric, Despite 76 Percent Of Democrats Supporting Marijuana Legalization)

Marijuana is legally considered a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Sen.s Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul introduced legislation in 2015 that would remove marijuana from Schedule I, but neither bill became law. 15 states and Washington, DC allow recreational use of marijuana, according to US News and World Report, while 36 states and Washington, DC allow medical use of marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Obama administration did not enforce federal marijuana laws for the most part in states that allowed consumption, a position that the Trump Administration maintained.

Update: This piece has been updated to include the White House’s response to The Daily Beast’s reporting and to reflect White House’s claim on the number of staffers affected by the policy.