Report: Biden staffers fired for past marijuana use after being told it would be ‘overlooked’

A number of young White House staffers have been suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program due to past marijuana use, despite being told the past transgressions would be “overlooked,” The Daily Beast has reported.

Incoming staffers were initially told by the Biden administration that recreational use of cannabis would be “overlooked” and they were still encouraged to apply for the positions, sources told Daily Beast.

The staffers were fired because they revealed past marijuana use in an official document they filled out as part of the background check for a position in the Biden White House.

Many of the ex-staffers lived in one of the 14 U.S. states where marijuana use is legal.

“It’s exclusively targeting younger staff and staff who came from states where it was legal,” a former staffer said.

The staffer added that “nothing was ever explained” while on firing calls led by Anne Filipic, the House director of management and administration.

“The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained,” the staffer said.

When asked about the White House’s policy on marijuana and its effect on the administration’s staffing, a WH spokesperson disputed the number of affected staff and said the Biden 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 spokesperson noted that the White House’s approach to past marijuana use is “much more flexible” than previous administrations, the Daily Beat reported.

“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 added. “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 firings come after the Biden administration officially updated its guidelines earlier this year to allow for “limited” use of the drug in the past.

“I find it absurd that, in 2021, marijuana use is still part of a security clearance background check,” Tommy Vietor, former spokesperson for President Obama and the United States National Security Council, said Thursday. “To me, marijuana use is completely irrelevant when you’re trying to decide whether an individual should be trusted with national security information.”

While marijuana has been legalized in a growing number of states, in the eyes of the federal government, the drug remains illegal — making it difficult for staffers to get security clearances if they’ve used the drug before.

The president remains the final authority on who can receive a clearance.

Follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy

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