Dozens of young White House staffers were suspended, asked to step down, or placed in a remote work program after admitting to past marijuana use despite being assured it would not be disqualifying, The Daily Beast reports.
Staffers were “pleased by initial indications” that the administration’s policy would not disqualify employees for recreational marijuana use, according to the report, only to later be told to resign.
The policy even affected employees who used marijuana in states where it is legal.
Many of the staffers admitted to past marijuana use on official background check documents.
“There were one-on-one calls with individual affected staffers—rather, ex-staffers,” a former staffer told the outlet. “I was asked to resign.”
The ex-staffer added that “the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained.”
WH planned to waive requirement:
NBC News previously reported last month that the White House intended to waive a requirement that all employees at the Executive Office of the President needed “top secret” clearance. People who admit past marijuana use are typically barred from getting this clearance.
A White House spokesperson told the Dail Beast that it is “committed to bringing the best people into government—especially the young people whose commitment to public service can deepen in these positions” and said the administration’s approach is more lenient than past administrations.
“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.”
Top Obama aides got a pass:
“I find it absurd that, in 2021, marijuana use is still part of a security clearance background check,” Tommy Vietor, a former Obama White Hosue aide, told The Daily Beast. “To me, marijuana use is completely irrelevant when you’re trying to decide whether an individual should be trusted with national security information.”
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s former national deputy security adviser, wrote in his book that his interim security clearance was initially denied due to past marijuana use but he was ultimately allowed to stay on.
Alyssa Mastromonaco, who was a deputy chief of staff under Obama, told Vice that she had a “love of the ganj” and “went home and flushed all the pot I had stashed in my underwear drawer” after filling out her background check form.
She was ultimately allowed to join the White House, “but I was randomly drug-tested pretty much once a month for the first year, and regularly after that.”