Reason Roundup

White House Sanctions Staffers Over Past Marijuana Use

Plus: FTC commissioner on antitrust action against Facebook, FIRE's Greg Lukianoff on the "marketplace of ideas" metaphor, and more...


Read the room? President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris entered the White House promising to not be the same old cops about cannabis. Biden "has reluctantly embraced decriminalizing marijuana," The Washington Post reported in January. And Harris has for several years been working to outrun her past drug warrior ways. True to this form, the Biden administration reportedly told potential staffers that past use of recreational marijuana would not necessarily disqualify them from White House jobs.

But now, "dozens of young White House staffers have been suspended, asked to resign or placed in a remote work program due to past marijuana use," The Daily Beast reports.* The move is "frustrating staffers who were pleased by initial indications from the Biden administration that recreational use of cannabis would not be immediately disqualifying for would-be personnel, according to three people familiar with the situation."

The zero tolerance policy even applies to people who only partook in states where recreational marijuana is legal, the Beast says:

Sources familiar with the matter also said a number of young staffers were either put on probation or canned because they revealed past marijuana use in an official document they filled out as part of the lengthy background check for a position in the Biden White House.

A White House spokesperson told the Beast:

"This decision was made following intensive consultation with career security officials and will effectively protect our national security while modernizing policies to ensure that talented and otherwise well-qualified applicants with limited marijuana use will not be barred from serving the American people."

The move itself and the laughably pompous rationale given—we must fire former cannabis users to protect national security!—doesn't bode well for expectations that the Biden-Harris administration might help bring more sanity to our nation's drug laws.

Meanwhile, in Mexico:

Mexico's likely approval of a law legalizing marijuana — possibly next month — could make it the world's most populated country to authorize cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. That would have a big impact on the United States.

Some marijuana industry advocates, such as Mexico's former President Vicente Fox, say the country's expected passage of this law will push the Biden administration to legalize weed at the federal level in the United States.


The trouble with the "marketplace of ideas" metaphor. Greg Lukianoff, president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), suggests that this metaphor "doesn't really capture free speech's most fundamental function: Freedom of speech gives you a fighting chance to know the world as it really is."


FTC commissioner explains reservations about Facebook lawsuit. On Thursday, during (yet another) congressional hearing on tech companies and antitrust law, Noah Phillips of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) explained why he was one of two commissioners who voted last year against the FTC suing Facebook. From NBC News:

Phillips said he believes the length of time that has lapsed since Facebook's acquisitions of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 presents an obstacle for enforcers. The FTC reviewed both merger proposals at the time and decided not to block them, allowing Facebook to move forward with the deals and make the apps integral parts of its own business.

"A big part of this goes to the integrity of the process," Phillips said, adding that he agrees that the law allows the agency to reevaluate mergers after they are consummated. "But as a general matter in terms of mergers, the longer you wait, the more investments the company make[s]. And I think that presents a real issue."


• It may still be a while before children are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. But "the best available research indicates that families with young children don't, in fact, have to live like it's 2020 until 2022."

• Americans will now have until May 17 to file their 2020 taxes.

• New York is moving to limit solitary confinement.

• A new frontier in the war on meth.

*DISCLOSURE: I am married to one of the reporters on this Daily Beast story, Asawin Suebsaeng.