The White House on Friday sought to downplay the number of staffers whose jobs have been derailed by their prior cannabis use.
A Daily Beast article published Thursday reported that “dozens of young White House staffers have been suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program” because of admissions of prior marijuana use.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that fewer than a half dozen people had fully lost their jobs after disclosing marijuana use.
“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,” she wrote in a two-part message on Twitter.
Several staffers told the outlet that the actions ran counter to the Biden administration’s promise that the drug — of which a growing number of states, and Washington, D.C., have legalized adult use — would not automatically disqualify staffers from working in the White House.
Psaki emphasized the shift in her statement. “As a result, more people will serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use,” she wrote.
Notably her statement did not address how many people were put on probation or received other workplace sanctions after admitting to using cannabis, as reported by the Daily Beast.
Though cannabis has become legal in more than a dozen states and social acceptance has been on the rise for decades, recreational use of the drug remains prohibited by federal law, and a number of agencies have rules barring potential staffers from obtaining security clearances needed for certain positions if they have used the drug within a designated period.
The issue is a thorny one for a Democratic administration given that cannabis legalization has become a mainstream plank of the party’s platform, even among moderates. The places where the drug has been legalized for adult use also overlaps with where prospective applicants live or hail from, most notably Washington, D.C., itself.
Virginia also passed legislation in late February to legalize adult marijuana usage, though major components of the law would not take effect until 2024.