Five people are no longer employed at the White House, while additional staffers are working remotely while their “suitability clearance” is pending, a senior White House official said. In many of the cases involving staffers who are no longer employed, additional security factors were in play, including for some hard drug use, the official said.
Staffers were informed of the decisions over the course of the past month, two sources familiar with the situation said.
While marijuana use is legal in many states, it is still illegal on the federal level, which can present a hurdle in the federal security clearance process.
The White House underscored on Friday that it has eased some restrictions in its security clearance policy to be more lenient about employing individuals with a history of drug use.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Friday that the White House “worked with the security service to update the policies to ensure that past marijuana use wouldn’t automatically disqualify staff from serving in the White House.”
“As a result, more people will serve who would not have in the past with the same level of recent drug use,” she added. “The bottom line is this: of the hundreds of people hired, only five people who had started working at the White House are no longer employed as a result of this policy.”
In a statement to CNN, Psaki said: “While we will not get into individual cases, there were additional factors at play in many instances for the small number of individuals who were terminated.”
Staffers needing a security clearance at the White House are required to fill out a detailed background check questionnaire, which includes questions about marijuana and other drugs. Applicants are asked to detail the type of drugs or controlled substances they have used and how frequent and recent the use has been.
Two sources said it was suggested to some during the presidential transition period that previous marijuana use might not disqualify individuals from serving in the White House. One source said the marijuana policy was not made clear to staffers before filling out their questionnaires.
CNN’s Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.