‘It’s just disappointing’: Calif. state senator on White House firings due to cannabis use

In late February, President Joe Biden’s administration issued new guidelines regarding use of recreational marijuana for staffers. A White House official told NBC News that these new rules would “effectively protect our national security while modernizing policies to ensure that talented and otherwise well-qualified applicants with limited marijuana use will not be barred from serving the American people.”

The guidelines require staffers to stop using marijuana during their employment, as the substance is still illegal at the federal level, and submit to random drug testing.

However, in what appeared to be a conflict with this new policy, White House press secretary Jan Psaki announced that five White House staffers were terminated because of their previous use of cannabis. A report from the Daily Beast said the number was actually in the dozens, with some relegated to remote work.

Psaki later clarified the White House position, stating that “a number” of the five people terminated had additional security issues in their past, and that the new guidelines have allowed “around a dozen” White House staff members to continue serving who would have been disqualified in previous administrations.

This morning, California state Sen. Scott Wiener tweeted his opposition to the actions, referencing the 1936 film “Reefer Madness,” which has become a historical touchstone for scaremongering regarding cannabis use.

“It’s just disappointing, because we finally have a president who gets it on a lot of issues,” Wiener told SFGATE. “He’s not been great on cannabis, but he’s getting better. The idea that you have these young White House staffers that got fired or otherwise harmed because they use cannabis, it’s just very disappointing and I hope that the administration can reverse those decisions.”

His sentiments echoed a chorus of 30 Democratic lawmakers who sent a letter Thursday to President Biden asking the administration to stop punishing staffers for recreational cannabis use. It’s the type of letter that Wiener said he’d be willing to sign himself.

“It just surprised me,” Wiener said. “I know there’s weird federal law around federal employment. I think there’s a lot of support in Congress for not being punitive around cannabis, even bipartisan support. So hopefully if there is something that can legally be fixed, it can be fixed.”

Dan Gentile AP