It seems President Joe Biden stepped on a beehive and out came his enduring support for the War on Drugs. On March 18, the White House announced that it was firing or asking dozens of its staffers to resign for having consumed cannabis in their past, regardless of having done so in legal states.
The Daily Beast reported that up to dozens of staffers were either put on probation or fired because they had revealed past cannabis use on their official applications when applying for jobs in the White House. Understanding that strict background checks would be undertaken, cannabis usage was not supposed to have been a problem, so they told the truth.
Shocked staffers received the bad news via phone calls.
“There were one-on-one calls with individual affected staffers—rather, ex-staffers,” a former staffer told the Daily Beast. “I was asked to resign.”
Staffers were naturally taken aback in that the Biden administration had indicated initially that recreational use of cannabis would not disqualify candidates seeking jobs in the 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,” reported the Daily Beast.
“Nothing was ever explained. The policies were ever explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained,” said one staffer who was asked to resign.
The White House attempted to defend the shocking policy announcement with a blanket and somewhat confusing statement about “maintaining 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.”
Democratic Congress members pushed back immediately.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, called the move unrealistic, unfair, and out of touch.
“This is an opportunity for the Biden administration to help end the failed War on Drugs and make a more rational policy for everyone,” Rep. Blumenauer told High Times via an emailed statement.
“This is where America is going and I hope they figure out a path forward that is fair and realistic. In the meantime, these young people should not be singled out and discriminated against for something that is legal in much of the country and supported by the vast majority of Americans,” said Rep. Blumenauer.
David Holland, former Legal Counsel to High Times Magazine and currently Executive and Legal Director of Empire State NORML, called the move shameful.
“Despite campaign promises and a professed commitment to right the wrongs of the drug war, Drug War Joe has shown his true colors…that he was never serious about cannabis reform,” Holland told High Times.
“In fact, after inducing candidates to be truthful on their employment applications about prior cannabis use, [Biden] has now made those honest disclosures a matter of moral condemnation declaring the applicant, now employee, ethically unfit to serve his administration despite the fact that federal policy in essence allowed such legal usage in their home states, and Washington DC, even though it is still federally illegal,” said Holland, who is also a Legal Advisor to the Last Prisoner Project.”
Holland went so far as calling the firings a “repugnant bait and switch tactic that feels like a form of entrapment in the face of a tidal wave of state legalization measures otherwise condoned by the federal government, but also harkens back to some of the worst parts of the prohibition era mentality.”
What say you, Madam Vice President?
Many are hoping that VP Kamala Harris will prevail on Biden to change course if indeed she is the reformer she often claimed to be during the campaign.
One only need recall VP Harris’s jovial admission of weed consumption and her often-repeated statements that she is “absolutely in favor of legalizing marijuana.”
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri called the Biden move part of a “Flat Earth mentality” that refuses to recognize that millions of Americans engage in legal cannabis consumption.
“The reports appear to run counter to the Administration’s own policies, which recognize that a growing number of US jurisdictions – including Washington, DC – have legalized the use of cannabis by adults, and which acknowledge the undue hardships caused by the ongoing criminalization of marijuana at the federal level.”