Antiquated Flashback: Five Young White House Staffers Fired For Past Marijuana Use

March 19, 2021

When I read about this particular subject this morning, I was kind of floored. Despite this being right now and not 1975, Joe Biden’s team needs to re-evauate this situation pretty quick.
Paul Waldman at The Washington Post earlier today: ‘But what it shows is that the federal government is in many ways still gripped by an anti-cannabis ideology that has more in common with 1936’s “Reefer Madness” than the real world of 2021.

Backtrack to go forward:

Context via The Daily Beast last night:

Dozens of young White House staffers have been suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program due to past marijuana use, frustrating staffers who were pleased by initial indications from the Biden administration that recreational use of cannabis would not be immediately disqualifying for would-be personnel, according to three people familiar with the situation.

The policy has even affected staffers whose marijuana use was exclusive to one of the 14 states — and the District of Columbia — where cannabis is legal.
Sources familiar with the matter also said a number of young staffers were either put on probation or canned because they revealed past marijuana use in an official document they filled out as part of the lengthy background check for a position in the Biden White House.

In some cases, staffers were informally told by transition higher-ups ahead of formally joining the administration that they would likely overlook some past marijuana use, only to be asked later to resign.

“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 response to this news story, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted out on Friday an NBC News report from February stating that the Biden administration wouldn’t automatically disqualify applicants if they admitted to past marijuana use.
Psaki said of the hundreds of people hired in the administration, only five who had started working at the White House are “no longer employed as a result of this policy.”

Some of these dismissals, probations and remote work appointments could have potentially been a result of inconsistencies that came up during the background-check process, where a staffer could have, for example, misstated the last time they used marijuana.
The effect of the policy, however, would be the same: The Biden White House would be punishing various staffers for violating thresholds of past cannabis use that would-be staffers didn’t know about.

“I find it absurd that, in 2021, marijuana use is still part of a security clearance background check,” Tommy Vietor, a veteran of the 2008 Obama team who subsequently worked as a National Security Council spokesperson, said Thursday.
“To me, marijuana use is completely irrelevant when you’re trying to decide whether an individual should be trusted with national security information.”

Of course, this being the nowadays.
Further per BuzzFeed late this afternoon:

Five White House staffers have been fired a result of prior marijuana use, weeks after the Biden administration said it would loosen these policies in an effort to modernize and expand the pool of people who can work there.

Adam Eidinger, cofounder of DC Marijuana Justice, told BuzzFeed News he found the firings “outrageous,” saying there’s no evidence that staffers using marijuana in their free time would affect how they perform in their jobs.
“You should only be looking at someone’s job performance to determine whether they are qualified to work in a place — not whether they used marijuana in the past or are currently using it,” he said.

Disciplining employees because they’ve used marijuana outside of working hours is a harmful and hypocritical precedent to reinforce, particularly from the nation’s highest office, National Cannabis Industry Association spokesperson Morgan Fox told BuzzFeed News.

“It’s definitely sending the wrong message, not just to federal employers, but to policy makers and private sector employers around the country,” Fox said.
“It kind of reinforces the false notion that cannabis is a detractor from somebody’s ability to do difficult jobs with a lot of responsibility.”

“Just look at the fact that three of the five last presidents have admitted to past cannabis use,” Fox said, “including Biden’s former boss.”

Seemingly the incident has come out of the blue, and as Waldman wrote at The Post, this is way-likely less Joe and more ‘...institutional inertia, in which long-standing policies are slow to change even as the world outside the organization does.’
And: ‘It’s overdue for an overhaul. And Biden is just the man for the job.

In a poll last November, Gallup found 68-percent of American adults backed the legalization of marijuana.
And in an interesting note: ‘Gallup first measured the public’s views of marijuana legalization in 1969, when 12-percent of Americans backed it; by 1977, support had more than doubled to 28-percent. It did not exceed 30-percent until 2000 but has risen steeply in the two decades since then, and is now twice what it was in 2001 and 2003.

Plus the ever-expanding medical uses — via Harvard Health Publishing last year:

The most common use for medical marijuana in the United States is for pain control.
While marijuana isn’t strong enough for severe pain (for example, post-surgical pain or a broken bone), it is quite effective for the chronic pain that plagues millions of Americans, especially as they age.
Part of its allure is that it is clearly safer than opiates (it is impossible to overdose on and far less addictive) and it can take the place of NSAIDs such as Advil or Aleve, if people can’t take them due to problems with their kidneys or ulcers or GERD.

In particular, marijuana appears to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis, and nerve pain in general.
This is an area where few other options exist, and those that do, such as Neurontin, Lyrica, or opiates are highly sedating.
Patients claim that marijuana allows them to resume their previous activities without feeling completely out of it and disengaged.

Along these lines, marijuana is said to be a fantastic muscle relaxant, and people swear by its ability to lessen tremors in Parkinson’s disease.
I have also heard of its use quite successfully for fibromyalgia, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, and most other conditions where the final common pathway is chronic pain.

However, the feds still consider pot the same as heroin — maybe Joe can change that.
Or maybe Chuck Schumer, who’s pushing a ‘long overdue’ bill for marijuana reform in the Senate:

Time’s running out, though, this Congressional session ends tomorrow.
Papers with that…?

(Illustration: ‘Cannabis,‘ by painter and illustrator, Michael Creese, and found here).

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