The White House said Friday that five staffers are no longer with the Biden administration because of their past marijuana use after dozens were reported to have been fired or otherwise disciplined.
The revelation nonetheless drew criticism from other Democrats, including some of Mr. Biden’s former colleagues in the Obama administration, while also highlighting conflicting drug laws and policies.
Marijuana has long been illegal under federal law, in turn making usage past or present a potentially disqualifying factor for individuals applying to obtain a security clearance or government job.
A growing number of states have legalized marijuana in recent years, however, and polling suggests a majority of Americans support ending federal prohibition entirely.
Tommy Vietor, a former spokesperson for the Obama administration when Mr. Biden was vice president, told The Beast he found it “absurd” that clearance applicants are still asked about marijuana use.
“It would be wrong to punish people for something that is entirely normal and increasingly legal,” fellow Obama alum Ben Rhode added on Twitter.
Marianne Williamson, an author who briefly ran for the Democratic presidential nomination ultimately won by Mr. Biden in 2020, called the new “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” meanwhile.
“People get government jobs who supported bombing hundreds of thousands of innocent people, but they get fired for having smoked marijuana,” Ms. Williamson tweeted.
“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,” Ms. Psaki said in a series of tweets Friday morning.
She noted that “additional factors” were at play in many of the instances concerning the few people fired, The Associated Press reported late Friday.