An unspecified number of young staffers in Joe Biden’s White House recently learned the hard way that reassurances offered by senior administration officials can’t necessarily be taken for granted.
While the Biden transition team initially vowed that prior recreational marijuana use would not disqualify individuals from joining the White House staff roster, new reports indicate that numerous aides to the president have been fired, forced to resign, placed on probation, or assigned to work remotely in light of their past use of the drug.
Former pot-smoking staffers ousted
The Daily Beast reported Thursday that a number of young staffers found it “frustrating” and felt betrayed after the White House seemed to walk back on their promise made months ago that prior recreational marijuana use would not be an immediately disqualifying factor in employment at the White House.
Unnamed sources said to be familiar with the matter — including at least one who claimed he was forced to resign in light of the updated policy — told the Daily Beast there had been no explanation for the sudden change nor any details released about where the threshold might be for an acceptable level of past marijuana use.
It’s a development that raises an interesting potential dilemma for the 78-year-old president, whose VP, Kamala Harris, famously admitted to smoking marijuana in the past, as noted in a Friday tweet from One America News Network’s Alex Salvi.
How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/8zXNAv0Yw6
— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) March 19, 2021
Psaki does damage control
In response to the criticism, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki took to Twitter, where she said 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.”
“As a result, more people will serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use,” she added. “The bottom line is this: of the hundreds of people hired, only five people who had started working at the White House are no longer employed as a result of this policy.”
The apparent rules change was first reported last month by NBC News, who revealed that the White House would merely issue waivers on a case-by-case basis to those “who had used marijuana on a ‘limited’ basis and who are in positions that do not ultimately require a security clearance.”
Blindsided by Biden?
In a later statement to The Daily Beast, Psaki said the White House would “not get into individual cases,” but claimed that “there were additional factors at play in many instances for the small number of individuals who were terminated.”
“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,” she said.
Given the manner in which it appears that these staffers were blindsided by his sudden about-face, Biden and his team may want to be a bit more clear on what constitutes “limited” use of federally restricted drugs.