White House defends marijuana policy after report of staffers targeted for past use

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday defended the administration’s policy on marijuana use by employees after a report said dozens of young staffers were suspended or asked to resign because of past use of the drug.

Psaki wrote in a series of tweets that only five people who had started working at the White House had lost their jobs because of the administration’s policy on past marijuana use. She did not indicate how many had been suspended or turned away before starting work, but she pointed to the administration relaxing rules around past marijuana use earlier this year.

“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.”

The White House earlier this year said it would, on a case-by-case basis, grant a waiver for potential appointees with past marijuana use who would need a “Top Secret” clearance to work in the Executive Office of the President.

The new guidance only applied to marijuana use, and an official acknowledged at the time that some individuals would not receive a waiver depending on the extent of their past use of the drug.

The Daily Beast reported late Thursday that dozens of staffers have been turned away from the administration or put in remote work programs because of their past marijuana use. The policy has affected staffers who used the drug in states where recreational marijuana is legal, the outlet reported.

“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 in a statement to The Daily Beast.

The White House policy has drawn pushback, even from some Democrats, in the wake of The Daily Beast’s report. Critics chided the administration’s position as regressive and adding further confusion to inconsistent laws on marijuana across the country.

“This is an opportunity for the Biden administration to help end the failed War on Drugs and make a more rational policy for everyone,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said in a statement.

“This is where America is going and I hope they figure out a path forward that is fair and realistic. In the meantime, these young people should not be singled out and discriminated against for something that is legal in much of the country and supported by the vast majority of Americans.”

Tags Earl Blumenauer Jen Psaki Marijuana pot Security clearance
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