Biden fires staff for pot use as New York seeks to legalize

In 2019, during the height of the Democratic Primaries, only eight percent of Americans believed marijuana should be considered an illegal substance, and two-thirds of the country believed recreational marijuana use should be illegal across the U.S. However, in November 2019, former vice president and then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden insinuated the substance could be a gateway drug.

“The truth of the matter is, there’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug,” said Biden. “I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”

Biden, who had already been heavily criticized for his involvement in the 1994 Crime Bill, stood in stark contrast to his peers running for the Democratic nomination on the subject. And yet, a year later, Biden was not the only victor on Nov. 3.

Four states legalized marijuana on the same night that President Biden was elected. New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota joined 11 other states in the recent push to make the drug legal, on the same day that the country elected a man who has been historically critical of marijuana legalization.

For their part, the Biden team maintained that, if elected, Democrats would decriminalize marijuana federally, in an effort to prevent anyone from being in prison solely for drug use. This is why some were surprised to hear several staffers in Biden’s White House had been fired for past marijuana use.

According to the Daily Beast, multiple White House staff members had been asked to resign, suspended or had been placed on probation because of past marijuana use. These formal punishments occurred regardless of the staffers’ state of residence and the state’s marijuana use laws.

The move was seen as unethical by some Democratic lawmakers, who pointed out that, during her own campaign for presidency, current Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg admitted to using marijuana.

30 Democratic lawmakers signed a letter to President Biden asking him to reconsider his decision.

“We ask that you clarify your employment suitability policies, remove past cannabis use as a potential disqualifier, and apply these policies with consistency and fairness,” said the letter.

The White House defended the firing of five staffers over past marijuana use, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying they lost their jobs after security issues were raised in a review of the employees. Psaki stated when former-President Barack Obama was in office, the rules were far more “stringent,” and noted that the substance is still federally illegal.

The news was announced at around the same time that Albany, NY lawmakers came to an agreement with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to possibly legalize the drug for adults 21 and over. With New York possibly becoming the 16th state to legalize marijuana, it’s fair to wonder how much longer the federal government could sustain a no marijuana use policy.