Biden White House officials have reportedly asked several young staffers to resign while suspending and reassigning others who previously admitted to using marijuana in the past.
The Daily Beast reported Friday that initially, those staffers were told in an informal setting that any prior pot use would not be a problem. However, the Biden administration’s position appears to have changed as “dozens” of mostly younger staff members “have been suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program,” according to three people who are familiar with the situation.
In addition, the purge is also being applied to staffers who only used marijuana recreationally in a state or in the District of Columbia where doing so is legal. The sources told The DB that several of the staffers were placed on probation or dismissed outright after revealing their past pot use in a document they completed as part of their extensive background check to work in the Biden White House.
At least in some instances, staff members were informally told by senior transition team members their past marijuana use would not count against them, yet they were asked to resign anyway.
“There were one-on-one calls with individual affected staffers—rather, ex-staffers,” one of the former White House staffers let go due to the policy told The Daily Beast. “I was asked to resign.”
“Nothing was ever explained” on those calls, which were led by White House Director of Management and Administration Anne Filipic, the ex-staffer said.
“The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained.”
NBC News reported in February that the Biden administration planned to waive a requirement for some candidates that potential Executive Office staffers be able to obtain a top-secret clearance.
“After what one official described as ‘intensive consultation with security officials’ and the Personnel Security Division, the White House will now, on a case-by-case basis, waive a requirement that potential appointees in the Executive Office of the President (EOP) be eligible for a ‘Top Secret’ clearance,” the outlet said.
Though most states have laws permitting recreational or medical use of marijuana, the drug is still listed as a controlled substance by the federal government. As such, even for minimal security clearance, applicants have to divulge any past or present drug use.
Anyone who receives a clearance must also agree to cease all marijuana use and agree to random drug-testing, NBC News added.
One White House official told the network the new hybrid policy 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.”
“President Biden is committed to bringing the best people into government — especially the young people whose commitment to public service can deepen in these positions and who can play leadership roles in our country for decades to come,” a White House official told the network in a statement.
“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.”
Applicants for a security clearance must fill out an SF-86, which is 136 pages and asks detailed questions about an individual’s past, relationships, drug use, finances, and more. Lying on an SF-86 is a felony and all but bars someone from working in the federal government.
And ultimately, the president is the final authority for who can and cannot get a security clearance when it comes to the White House. But that said, some are critical of marijuana use still being utilized as a determining factor.
“I find it absurd that, in 2021, marijuana use is still part of a security clearance background check,” Tommy Vietor, a 2008 Obama campaign staffer and eventual National Security Council spokesperson, said this week, The Daily Beast reported.
“To me, marijuana use is completely irrelevant when you’re trying to decide whether an individual should be trusted with national security information.”
The former staffer who was forced out told The Daily Beast the situation seems unfair since they were attempting to be honest.
“It’s exclusively targeting younger staff and staff who came from states where it was legal,” the person said.
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