Earlier this week, the Daily Beast reported that “dozens” of White House staffers were suspended, exiled to remote work, or asked to resign entirely, all for the simple fact that they had smoked weed at some point in the past, even in states where it was legal. After a flurry of subsequent reporting and outcries from Democrats in Congress, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the policy Friday, tweeting:
“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. As a result, more people will serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use.”
As NBC News previously reported, the Biden administration initially said that weed wouldn’t “automatically disqualify” staffers, but that they would need to go through a vetting process regardless, case by case, to gain top-level security clearances. According to Psaki, only five staffers “are no longer employed as a result of this policy.” No clue, per the press secretary’s statements, what acually disqualified them.
Psaki’s tweet also failed to address broader allegations from the Daily Beast—chiefly, that staffers had been sidelined and ask to work remotely for their past weed consumption. According to one of those who had been fired:
“There were one-on-one calls with individual affected staffers—rather, ex-staffers,” one former White House staffer affected by the policy told The Daily Beast. “I was asked to resign.”
“Nothing was ever explained” on the calls, they added, which were led by White House Director of Management and Administration Anne Filipic. “The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained.”
In a statement to the outlet Thursday night, before Psaki’s comments this morning, the White House also disputed reports of the number of affected employees. According to a spokesperspon for the admin:
“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.”
Gotta say—the administration keeps explaining this apparent policy with increasing wordcount, yet I’m no closer to understanding even a whiff of it. To those affected, maybe post your Cash App? I’m sure the Weed Smokers of America would love to buy you a few joints.