The Biden administration is going back on its promise not to get rid of staffers over past marijuana use, according to a report from The Daily Beast published Thursday. Despite the administration telling staffers back in February that their history of using marijuana wouldn’t affect their jobs, numerous employees have since been asked to leave their positions, work remotely indefinitely, or been suspended.
“There were one-on-one calls with individual affected staffers — rather, ex-staffers,” a now-former White House staffer, who was reportedly asked to resign due to weed use, told The Daily Beast. “The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained.”
Last month, the administration said it would review staffers' marijuana use on a case-by-case basis. It largely came down to who was eligible for security clearances, as a record of drug use can affect this eligibility. As a result, they decided that staffers who had “limited” past marijuana use — an amount determined by the administration — and were applying for positions where security clearances weren’t absolutely necessary could have their drug use overlooked.
Less than a month later, staffers have said this is no longer the case, as dozens of them have been temporarily or permanently affected by the Biden administration’s apparent change in policy.
A spokesperson for the White House stood by the administration’s decision, saying in a statement to The Daily Beast, “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.”
“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 spokesperson added.
The administration’s position is unsurprising given Biden’s track record of tough stances on drug-related crimes and laws. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 — which he sponsored, and co-sponsored and helped write, respectively — not only created the Office of National Drug Control Policy, but resulted in increased prison time for drug possession and drug transportation.
Weed is legal in 14 states and the District of Columbia, and millions of people use it recreationally. It is, however, still considered an illegal substance at the federal level.