Admitting You Smoked Pot Can Get You Bounced From White House Job

It's all a matter of the suddenly important "security clearance."


The status of White House security clearances regarding such luminaries as former presidential assistant Rob Porter and even presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner (who on his merely temporary clearance requests more intelligence information than any staffer not on the National Security Council) has earned that coveted social networking age description "bonkers" from Slate.

The publication notes that among the 130 Trump staffers not yet receiving full security clearance is White House counsel Don McGahn, himself responsible for adjudicating others' clearances and managing government secrets.

smokershighlife on / CC BY-NC-SA

A quieter White House security clearance story broke last week, revealing a ludicrous stance officially taken by the federal government: if you, like a bare majority of 52 percent of adult Americans, admit to having smoked pot, you can be deemed unqualified to work in the White House.

George David Banks, who had been special assistant to the president on international energy and environment under Trump and had previously been an adviser in the George W. Bush White House's Council on Environmental Quality and worked on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, explained in an interview with E&E News that:

I had a permanent clearance for 14 years, CIA, State, Bush White House.

And once you leave government, you don't have a clearance. It's not as if you can just walk into a building and say, "Hey, I still have my clearance." So anyway, I didn't have a clearance when I started this job…..

It was like an hour interview with the FBI. They're looking over your paperwork; you're going through all your responses. Then that's it. Didn't hear anything. Certainly didn't hear there was a potential problem with my clearances.

I didn't know until Tuesday. I get a call at 4:30 p.m. from White House counsel saying they want to meet with me at 6 p.m. Three people in the room. They just say, "Look, your job requires a permanent TS-whatever, and we're not going to grant you a clearance." And I'm like, "Why?"

I'm on the edge of my seat. I'm like, "Holy shit!" He looks at me and goes, "Your drug use." I was like, "Really? That's it?" He goes, "Yes." I said, "Well, I'm not a drug user. I've only experimented with it a few times." He goes, "We know. Those are just the rules. It was too recent."…

If it had been something, like, had I lied, right, and in their investigation they found, "Oh, he smokes pot," or if it were a revelation that they just discovered, like, two weeks or two months ago. … But I self-reported this a year ago.

I just don't know why it took a year.

The New York Times reports that Banks' self-reported pot use was between 2010 and 2013. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is, after Porter was pushed out by accusations of domestic abuse, attempting damage control regarding temporary security clearances for which, Times sources say, Banks was collatoral damage.

We know that the announced public reason for any government decision isn't necessarily true or complete. Perhaps other considerations really caused Banks to lose his job. (Pot use is something that can disqualify you but doesn't always.) But that the government can even offer such an excuse—that he's disqualified for having smoked pot in the past—as true is ludicrous, and should be rethought immediately.

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  1. But that the government can even offer such an excuse?that he’s disqualified for having smoked pot in the past?as true is ludicrous, and should be rethought immediately.

    Here’s a rethought: Require every congresscreature and administration weenie to publicly declare under oath every mind-altering substance they have ever ingested.

    1. Let’s face it, my fellow libertarians aka conservative Republicans, only dumb, dirty hippies and FAKE NEWS-loving LIBTARDS smoke weed. TRUMP NOW, TRUMP IN 2020, AND TRUMP FOREVER!

      1. Trump and his son have probably snorted enough coke to kill Charlie Sheen.

        1. Hey, “Fancylad,” how dare you accuse our great, sexy leader Donald and his almost equally so son of snorting cocaine! Don has said many times that he’s never even touched an illegal drug in his entire life; nor has he ever had a drink. Why don’t you believe him? I’ve never heard the man tell a lie. You must be a FAKE NEWS-loving, KILLARY-loving LIBTARD. Trump now, Trump in 2020, and Trump forever!

          1. I honestly can’t tell if this Comment is sincere or not.

            1. “Eman?” You must be one of these Arab Muslims, which gives you no right to speak here in Donaldland. Take your Sharia law with you back to the sandy land where you were born. Trump now, Trump in 2020, and Trump forever! Does this answer your question as to whether I’m sincere or not? We libertarians aka conservative Republicans are always sincere.

              1. Actually “eman” is just “name” spelled backwards. Close though!

                1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

                  This is what I do…

              2. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

                This is what I do…

    2. I’ll guarantee George David Banks isn’t being completely honest about why he got canned. “Errr… it’s cause I tried pot. Yeah, that’s why”.

  2. But is okay if you’re name is Bush or Obama.

    1. Well, yeah. And you can bet if the name was Kushner or Trump, it would also be okay.

      I 100% suspect this is a case of “we’re going after what we can, because we can’t go after the real offenders”.

      1. And the offense being we don’t like them.

        1. Nope. The dude fucked up his SF-86 so much that the investigation has dragged on for over a year and it’s needed multiple revisions. That is the problem.

  3. OT: California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia denies groping accusations

    “I left with some staff and with some members …,” Garcia said.

    *** snort ***

    1. Oh, come on, savor her actual statement:

      “Upon reflection of the details alleged, I am certain I did not engage in the behavior I am accused of,” Garcia said in a statement.


      I needed reflection because I have groped a lot of guys in my time and I mix them up sometimes, but I’m fairly certain that I didn’t grope this particular guy in this particular way.

  4. Spelling: Collateral, not collatoral.

    1. Colon.

  5. Bush had some fucking gangstas in his cabinet!

  6. I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest that this is 100% political. After the recent “scandals” they’re trying to clear out potential scandals. Since they can’t go after the biggest offenders (Kushner is either going to get his clearance or they’ll drag on his investigation until Trump leaves office. He’s not going to get denied) they’re going after what they can.

  7. As a defense contractor:

    A TS clearance is good for 3 years before you have to undergo a new investigation. Also, leaving government service doesn’t make your clearance vanish. As long as you get another job that requires a clearance within a year after terminating your service your clearance will stay active. After one year your clearance status goes to inactive and it is much more difficult to get a job requiring a clearance as whatever agency or company hires you has to pay to have your clearance re-activated.

    As for drug use, there are tons of people who have smoked pot and still have a clearance. What will sink you, and is probably the case given by his “it was too recent statement,” is using drugs while you have an active clearance. Just reading this it sounds like he quit working for the government, assumed that because he was no longer a federal employee that his drug use wouldn’t matter, smoked pot, then underwent a re-investigation where they told him he shouldn’t have done drugs because his clearance was still active because now they have to deny him a re-activation.

    1. That sounds about right too, I didn’t think about the “current use” aspect.

      That said, I’m still willing to bet it’s the White House going for the low-hanging fruit.

    2. Former defense contractor employee, too. I got secret with past pot use .. maybe 3 years prior to my investigation. I had to indicate the reason why I would no longer do illicit drugs, so re-initiating use could be considered a vague form of lying/perjury. Man, I thought I was a squeaky-clean all-American without so much as a speeding ticket, and I got eviscerated over 15 months. No political correctness in the clearance business. You can be rejected for all manner of discriminatory reasons, and I’m actually mostly okay with that. I didn’t have to get a job requiring clearance, and I will likely never have another for those exact reasons.

      1. Crazy to think that some of the WH staff still has interim clearance this far out. I know the OPM is slammed after unifying the background investigations, but some of the new grads were getting TS-poly in 8 months.

        1. Kushner has done business all over the world and probably has boatloads of foreign contacts. Very different situation from a 23-year old new college grad who’s never had a full time job.

    3. He left government service at the end of the Bush Administration, so his clearances would have long ago expired.

  8. With the support for legalization of pot rising, how are they going to continue to support these decisions?

    Elsewhere in the federal government, smoking pot in your past won’t inhibit your clearance prospects.

    1. With the support for legalization of pot rising, how are they going to continue to support these decisions?

      See Tsumaranai’s post above. Having used it sometime in the past isn’t as big of a deal as using it while you have a security clearance.

      That said, I’ve heard similar concerns before. Recruitment and retention is always a problem as the government has stricter non-merit-based-standards then most employers. The answer in the past has been “we can overlook things you did, but don’t do it again.”

      1. A lot of people read the questions on the clearance forms and decide not to apply for the job. Would you want to spend all day every day surrounded by superstitious mystics, pseudoscience suckers and bootlicking fascist snitches?

        1. Would you want to spend all day every day surrounded by superstitious mystics, pseudoscience suckers and bootlicking fascist snitches?

          I can neither confirm nor deny.

    2. The same way municipalities in marijuana-legal states still require a drug test and disqualify you for marijuana use.

      Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes bought pot the first day it was legal to do so and brought it to work, breaking the city’s rules. He apologized.

      1. Understanding that few people will click through the link, you may find this little tidbit interesting.

        Venus Mills, assistant director for Bothell-based Drug Free Business, said she expected to see a decrease in drug testing when new marijuana laws took effect. But so far it’s been the opposite.

        “As a matter of fact, our client base has actually increased since the law went into effect,” said Mills. “We’re seeing more and more companies testing now that it’s in the forefront of their minds, ‘Are my employees smoking pot?’?”

  9. This isn’t ‘Nam. There are rules.

  10. HuyTuong Vu Nguyen owns Healing Choice Chiropractic in Tacoma’s Lincoln District. It didn’t occur to him to screen his one employee, a massage therapist, for drugs.

    Being a massage therapist in a Chiropractic clinic IS the drug screening, and the answer is YES!

  11. In this WH it’s okay to hit your wife, just not a bong.

  12. That’s the whole point of “Schedule” leaves ?n such. By setting all such things equal to Satanic Possession as in the Devils of Loudon, Congress avoids the embarrassment of someone thoroughly dosed on acid defeating Beauregard in a debate, an arithmetic quiz, a spelling bee or even a sobriety test administered without benefit of billy clubs. If someone could take off a shoe on CNN and prove that mushrooms or cacti did not transubstantiate human feet into cloven hooves, there’d be panic! It’d be anarchy!

  13. I had a permanent clearance for 14 years, CIA, State, Bush White House.

    He claims to have had a “permanent” clearance? There is no such thing. Any clearance can be taken away at any time.

  14. At least we’ve never had a president who has smoked pot. That would really send kids the wrong message.

  15. Marijuana is still illegal in quite a few states and as far as the federal government is concerned.

    If you smoke weed, you are violating federal law (even though its unconstitutional). This shows that you are fine with violating federal law. Something you might not want people who see national secrets to think is okay.

    1. I am more concerned about the security implications of having senior government employees who think that someone who smokes weed is just as likely to spill national secrets. That suggests at a deficit of logical thinking that could have other, more serious manifestations.

  16. Meh. It should really be up to each particular administration who they want working in the White House. I’m against the drug ban, but I’m also for employers being able to set their hiring criteria. Since this is for a relatively small number of people, many of whom change when a new president is elected, I’m inclined to judge this by employer rather than government criteria.

  17. Admitting You Smoked Pot Can Get You Bounced From White House Job

    Unless that job is “President of the United States.”

  18. I can hear the great Nancy and Ronnie from their graves right now. They’re saying, “Right on; just say no to drugs!” I loved Reagan. After Donald, he’s our greatest prez ever. Speaking of which, TRUMP NOW, TRUMP IN 2020, AND TRUMP FOREVER!

  19. In my case, I asked the interviewer what the concern with drug use (in an applicant’s past) was. He said they didn’t really care if you said yes or no on the clearance application, but if you lied about it. Most of the clearance research, interviews, and investigation is geared to finding out if you might be susceptible to blackmail or bribery. He said the most common reason for clearance denial was bad credit. That made you susceptible to bribery. Next came lying about anything; that made you susceptible to blackmail. If you said on the application you had used drugs, then you cannot be blackmailed about it, and might get the clearance if you weren’t using currently. (They still don’t like drunks and dopers babbling about what they do at work)
    Anyway, I did my part for the country, left the job, and the clearance lapsed. Now my only problem is that there was a list of 15 countries I swore to never visit, and most no longer exist; (USSR etc) but I can’t remember the other ones.
    But I suspect working in the White House (is that racist to say?) may have different rules these days.

  20. Ed Snowden and Bradley Manning had security clearances and look how that turned out.

  21. As long as pot remains a schedule 1 drug in the federal records, any one who has used it in a government or government related job could be fired, not hired, denied clearance, whatever.

  22. The standard for drug use to get a secret clearance is none in the last 7 years. If he smoked it in 2013, that’s way too recent. This is not a new thing. It’s existed for quite a while.

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