The Biden administration announced a new policy on Friday that will allow some appointees to be hired for White House jobs in spite of previous recreational marijuana use. The new guidelines for political appointees were put in place in response to challenges faced filling White House positions for the new administration, according to a report from NBC News.
Under the new policy, the White House will be able to waive a requirement that potential appointees to positions in the Executive Office of the President (EOP) be eligible to receive a “Top Secret” security clearance. Waivers would only be granted on a limited basis for candidates being considered for positions that do not actually require a security clearance.
Because of the continued illegality of cannabis at the federal level, those who acknowledge past recreational marijuana use are routinely denied “Top Secret” security clearances. As the Biden administration began the task of filling White House positions following the November election, the transition team realized the requirement for eligibility for a “Top Secret” clearance was eliminating otherwise qualified candidates solely for marijuana use.
“President Biden is committed to bringing the best people into government — especially the young people whose commitment to public service can deepen in these positions and who can play leadership roles in our country for decades to come,” a White House official told NBC News. “The White House’s policy will maintain 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.”
The new policy applies only to marijuana and candidates who admit to extensive use would not qualify for a waiver. Appointees granted waivers would be required to agree to end their cannabis use while employed by the government and to submit to random drug testing. A White House official said that the new guidelines 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.”
Policy For Other Federal Jobs Also Updated
Only days before the administration policy was announced, Kathleen McGettigan, the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, sent a memo to executive branch officials to outline criteria for evaluating candidates for employment in federal government jobs.
“It would be inconsistent with suitability regulations to implement a policy of finding an individual unfit or unsuitable for federal service solely on the basis of recency of marijuana use,” McGettigan wrote. “The nature and seriousness of the use and the nature of the specific position …. are also likely to be important considerations.”
Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said in a statement about McGettigan’s memo that the federal government’s prohibition of cannabis “continues to have ripple effects.”
“Placing civil service employees and others in the workforce under undue scrutiny because of their past use of cannabis,” Armentano said, “and imposing disciplinary action for those employees who consume cannabis while off-the-job in accordance with the laws of their states, are among the many negative consequences facing Americans as a result of the federal government’s ‘Flat Earth’ policy toward cannabis and those who consume it.”