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On Friday, The Daily Beast reported that dozens of Joe Biden’s White House staffers “have been suspended, asked to resign, or placed in a remote work program” because of past marijuana use, despite the fact that they’d previously been told that past use likely would not disqualify them.  

The Beast attributed its report to “three people familiar with the situation,” adding that the policy even impacted staffers whose marijuana use had only occurred in a state (or district, in the case of the District of Columbia) where weed usage was legal. 

This is both an injustice and far from an isolated incident. Rather, the news is just another example of this administration’s hypocritical penchant for saying one thing but doing another when it comes to drug policy. 

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Now, to be fair, since The Beast’s story came out, White House press secretary Jen Psaki has attempted to downplay it, tweeting out an NBC News report from February claiming that the administration “wouldn’t automatically disqualify staff from serving in the White House,” adding that only five people who had begun their work at the White House were “no longer employed as a result of this policy.”

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Psaki also sent a statement to The Beast insisting that the administration had actually “worked … to ensure that more people have the opportunity to serve than would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use.”  

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As The Beast noted, however, Psaki did not note how many potential White House staffers had been disqualified for a job before ever getting the chance to start one because of marijuana.  

In any case, though, the fact that even a single staffer had been let go, demoted or disqualified due to past marijuana use – especially after being told it probably wouldn’t affect their employment – is not only wrong, but also completely senseless.   

Although I can certainly understand why the White House wouldn’t want to hire a staffer who would show up to work stoned, I would challenge anyone to find even a single piece of evidence that past marijuana use (especially legal marijuana use, in which no laws were broken) would interfere with a person’s ability to do their job. 

Although Biden certainly said a lot of progressive things during his campaign, his criminal justice record is nothing short of draconian.

It’s also, quite frankly, nasty to trick people by convincing them that their honesty on this matter would be of no consequence to them professionally, only to then fire or demote them for having told the truth.  

Unfortunately, as disgusting as the chicanery that this administration seems to have pulled here is, it’s also totally unsurprising. In fact, if I had to sum up the Biden/Harris approach to drug policy in one word, “chicanery” would be exactly the one I’d choose.  

Although Biden certainly said a lot of progressive things during his campaign, his criminal justice record is nothing short of draconian, and that is certainly something that he and Harris have in common. 

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Worse, this disingenuous disconnect between word and deed has only continued since he’s become president. For example: Last month, Biden said: “No one should go to jail for the use of a drug.” Although I may agree with his statement, I certainly do not agree with the blatant attempt to deceive the country that he was obviously making by saying it. After all, if Biden really did feel this way, there’s no reason he wouldn’t be doing something to change it.  

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Biden could, for example, grant clemency to all of the people currently locked up in federal prisons for using criminalized drugs – many of whom, by the way, are actually rotting there precisely because of the laws that he himself co-authored or co-sponsored, like the 1994 Crime Bill or the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 – but he hasn’t.   

Harris, of course, isn’t much better. Sure, she may say she supports the legalization of cannabis now, but she also oversaw nearly 2,000 marijuana convictions during her time as a prosecutor in San Francisco, and even declined to support California’s legalization ballot measure just five years ago in 2016.

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Like Biden, Harris has also, as of yet failed, to meaningfully address or rectify her past championing of unjust drug legislation or the damage that it has caused.  

Put simply: The White House treated these staffers and potential staffers unjustly, and deserves to be called out for that. In doing so, though, we have to also be sure to highlight how this treatment, unfortunately, does not represent the exception, but the rule.  

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