A number of young, White House staffers were asked to resign, suspended, or moved to remote work locations as a result of an archaic policy which aims to demonize workers over past marijuana use.
The employment shakeups in the Biden White House points to a larger problem and rooted fears that the incoming administration may not be as progressive as once thought. The move also contradicts the trajectory of the national collective, who widely support the legalization of marijuana.
Dozens of young White House staffers have been suspended or asked to resign due to past marijuana use, despite initial indications from the Biden admin that recreational use of cannabis would not be immediately disqualifying for would-be personnel https://t.co/S8a6Xx3dPc
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) March 19, 2021
In America 14 states have legalized marijuana usage including Washington, D.C, where the White House is located. A November Gallup poll showed that 68 percent of adults in the U.S. support the legalization of marijuana. As public support increases, Black and brown communities are routinely criminalized at disproportionate rates, even though usage among different populations remains similar or higher.
A staffer who spoke with The Daily Beast under anonymity said that former employees weren’t fully made aware of the White House policy on past use.
“The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained,” the ex-staffer told the outlet.
The move also reportedly shook the confidence of former staffers who say the were informally told by higher-ups that past use would not immediately disqualify them for said positions. The total number of staffers who were sidelined is unknown.
In a statement to The Daily Beast White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the White House policy on Friday and said that only five people were let go as a result of past use. Her statement doesn’t include a comment on the number of individuals who never made it to the next phase of the hiring process after admitting use.
With the right link. This is from original announcement. https://t.co/3W9e24yOTI
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) March 19, 2021
“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. 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,” Psaki said.
“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 tweeted. “As a result, more people will serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use.”
In February the White House said it was open to waive or review case-by-case a requirement that all potential appointees in the Executive office of the President be able to obtain top secret clearance.
The White House policy on marijuana lends itself to an outdated frame of thinking that connects usage with criminality, lack of morals and character. The war on drugs movement helped to frame this narrative, constructed to build policy which would legalize the repeated targeting and arrests of Black and brown community members.
Interestingly Biden, with a career spanning almost five decades, played a large part in the efforts which ramped up the war on drugs, especially during his time as the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I still believe it’s a gateway drug,” Biden told ABC News in 2010 as vice president. “I’ve spent a lot of my life as chairman of the Judiciary Committee dealing with this. I think it would be a mistake to legalize.”
While he’s reversed course on some of his past outdated beliefs, the recent firings show his stance on the criminalization of marijuana might be harder for him to shake.
The continued criminalization of marijuana is a neverending stimulus package for law enforcement.— Rep. Omari Hardy (@OmariJHardy) March 19, 2021
We need to deschedule marijuana now!— Bakari Sellers (@Bakari_Sellers) March 19, 2021
I have no idea if this is true, but I do know I served as a deputy national security advisor from 2009-2017 having acknowledged past marijuana use on my forms. It would be wrong to punish people for something that is entirely normal and increasingly legal https://t.co/99kfN30NFn— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) March 19, 2021
when i was scared shitless about admitting my past marijuana use - i was told repeatedly by smart people - no matter what, just tell the truth bc the greatest risk to your clearance was lying. https://t.co/xmOO7HbsQJ— alyssa Stabler’s Back mastromonaco (@AlyssaMastro44) March 19, 2021
WH staffers got shafted for past marijuana use. This requires a think big fix, not a small one. Deschedule marijuana as a schedule 1 drug (it's equated by the fed govt with HEROIN.) Stop filling prisons with non-violent offenders, disproportionately people of color. Legalize it.— Ben LaBolt (@BenLaBolt) March 19, 2021
President Biden:— ACLU (@ACLU) March 19, 2021
✔️ Claims to support marijuana decriminalization
✔️ Fires staffers who may have used it in past
Make it make sense. https://t.co/uz5dHkBQIl
No one should be in jail for smoking marijuana.— Nina Turner (@ninaturner) March 19, 2021
No one should lose their job (or have a criminal record) for having smoked it.
I've smoked weed.— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) March 19, 2021
Almost everybody I know has tried marijuana.
Most of my successful, smart, talented, capable friends and colleagues have smoked marijuana.
And almost every young adult I've met has smoked marijuana.
It's 2021. Grow up, America.https://t.co/IVHvRmV4vd
When I was Bernie's 2016 policy director, I was very proud that we successfully amended the Democratic platform - by 1 vote - making it the official party position to legalize marijuana. It's shameful that it was not included in 2020. No one should be fired for smoking marijuana. https://t.co/BZlm4g71m8— Warren Gunnels (@GunnelsWarren) March 19, 2021
Would @POTUS have fired his own family members due to their history of drug & alcohol use? Did he fire any staffers who previously & are currently using alcohol & tobacco? His old school mentality deeming marijuana different & a character flaw proves a lack of critical thinking. https://t.co/33kpTFcdBK— Lyn Anne (@LynAnneM4A) March 19, 2021