WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday declined to say why the White House fired staff for past marijuana use when Vice President Kamala Harris has talked openly about the fact that she too used to get high — referring instead to vague security service standards before growing visibly annoyed.
The White House terminated at least five staffers for past marijuana use, Psaki disclosed last week in response to a report that “dozens” had been canned or given less severe discipline such as suspensions.
Psaki said the firings were an “unfortunate conclusion” at her daily press briefing Wednesday, responding to a question from The Post.
But she declined to say why President Biden hasn’t declared that staff can keep their jobs — despite pot use — given Harris’ claim to have formerly used marijuana and the VP’s statement in 2019 that “it gives a lot of people joy, we need more joy in the world.”
Psaki insisted that the Biden administration relaxed rules that would otherwise automatically disqualify staff — although at least one fired staffer told the Daily Beast the current policy is unclear.
“Nothing was ever explained,” a terminated staffer told the publication. “The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained.”
“Well, let me first say that what we tried to do as an administration was work with the security service who actually makes these determinations about suitability for serving in government. In the past — and I served in the Obama-Biden administration — the rules were actually far more stringent,” Psaki said.
“So that isn’t about anyone’s personal point of view, it’s about working through the process, the history and modernizing and taking steps to address the fact that marijuana is legal in a number of states across the country. It is still illegally federally.”
She added: “There were as I noted, I think, in our comment last week that there are five individuals who are no longer employed at the White House. A number of them, there were other security issues that were raised. And you know, that’s an unfortunate conclusion, of course.”
She bristled at follow-up questions about why the president doesn’t override security office decisions about staff in light of Harris’ own past pot use and the number of staff members who were disciplined but not fired.
“I think if marijuana was federally legal, that might be a different circumstance. But I don’t think I have any more for this on you — on this for you,” Psaki said.
Asked about data on the number of people disciplined, she said, “I don’t have any more data for you, other than to convey that there were a number of people who would not have been able to serve in past administrations and because of our efforts to modernize and work with the security service, they are able to serve.”
Marijuana is federally illegal, but most states allow medical marijuana and 15 states, two US territories and the District of Columbia passed ballot measures or enacted laws that allow recreational marijuana. The Justice Department allows state-legal businesses to operate.
Recent polls by Gallup and Pew found that more than two-thirds of the US population supports marijuana legalization — including about half of Republican voters.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced plans to introduce a bill that federally legalizes marijuana.
Harris reportedly oversaw 1,900 marijuana prosecutions while she was San Francisco district attorney from 2004 to 2011, before saying in 2019 that she was herself a former pot user. She now supports making pot legal, in a significant break with Biden.
As a senator, Biden authored some of the nation’s harshest federal drug laws. On his final day as president, Donald Trump released two prisoners serving life without parole for marijuana under Biden’s 1994 crime law.