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Five will exit White House over past use of marijuana

Five White House staffers have been fired because of their past use of drugs, including marijuana.
Five White House staffers have been fired because of their past use of drugs, including marijuana.Andrew Harnik

WASHINGTON — In February, the Biden administration relaxed long-standing policies that have barred some past users of marijuana from working in the White House, signaling that past use would not necessarily disqualify a person from employment.

The change was seen as a way to open the door for younger talent from parts of the country where marijuana has been legalized, but it took only a few weeks for the new guidelines to be publicly tested.

On Friday, responding to a news report in The Daily Beast that said dozens of young staff members had been pushed to resign or had been reassigned to remote work based on their past marijuana use, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, confirmed that some employees had been sidelined but said that it applied to fewer people.

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“The bottom line is this,” Psaki wrote on Twitter, “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.”

The episode highlighted how murky the new guidelines are, particularly for a White House that has pledged to embrace progressive positions. A number of officials who have disclosed past marijuana use but are still permitted to work for the Biden administration have been asked to sign a pledge not to use marijuana while working for the government, and they must also submit to random drug testing, according to officials.

The five officials Psaki mentioned Friday had been directed to resign in part because of past marijuana use, according to a person familiar with the matter but who was not authorized to speak publicly. Several in that group also had other disqualifying factors that surfaced when determining their eligibility to receive jobs in the administration, that person said.

About a dozen administration officials have been directed to work remotely until they have been cleared to meet a new standard of past marijuana use set by White House officials overseeing personnel security.

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The rules were released amid guidance from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that could affect how people in agencies across the federal government qualify for employment.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.