The Biden White House has reportedly sidelined or forced out dozens of staffers for their history of pot use.
The White House initially suggested to potential staffers that past marijuana use would not necessarily count against them. Dozens of staffers have found themselves being asked to resign or put on probation over their history with the drug, some because they admitted to using marijuana during their background check for their role in the White House, according to the Daily Beast.
The penalties have hit staffers from states where pot use is decriminalized or legal, as well. Federal law still prohibits marijuana use. Some of the penalties may have been triggered by inconsistencies in the staffers’ background checks, such as misremembering the last time they used marijuana.
“There were one-on-one calls with individual affected staffers — rather, ex-staffers,” one former White House staffer told the Beast. “I was asked to resign.”
“Nothing was ever explained” ex-staffers complained. “The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained.”
The White House defended its actions, claiming that its current policies on pot use are more lax than previous administrations. The White House is “committed to bringing the best people into government—especially the young people whose commitment to public service can deepen in these positions,” a spokesperson said.
“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 continued. “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 Biden administration crackdown on marijuana users within its ranks comes as Senate Democrats are building up for a push to reform federal marijuana law. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) along with Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) released a joint statement at the beginning of February pledging to introduce legislation that would scrap the federal prohibition on pot.
“The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color. Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country,” the joint statement said. “But that alone is not enough. As states continue to legalize marijuana, we must also enact measures that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs.”
“In the early part of this year, we will release a unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform to ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations,” the senators said. “Getting input from stakeholder groups will be an important part of developing this critical legislation.”
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