WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Friday released new guidelines intended to overcome an unexpected hurdle it faced as it aimed to quickly fill key White House positions: recreational marijuana use.

Although the use of marijuana is legal in a growing number of cities and states, it is still illegal under federal law and therefore is a potentially disqualifying factor for obtaining security clearances. Transition officials quickly identified recreational marijuana use as a potential barrier for applicants, especially younger ones, to meeting this requirement.

After what one official described as “intensive consultation with security officials” and the Personnel Security Division, the White House will now, on a case-by-case basis, waive a requirement that those appointed to the Executive Office of the President (EOP) be eligible for a “Top Secret” rating. Officials said a waiver would only be granted to those who have used marijuana on a “limited” basis and who hold positions that ultimately do not require security clearance.

A White House official pointed out that the policy only applies to the use of marijuana. And even under the new policy, some appointees would still not be granted a waiver given the extent of their recognized marijuana use.

Four states voted last November to join 11 others and Washington, DC, to sanction the use of recreational marijuana among adults, while nearly three dozen states allow the use of recreational marijuana. medical.

But marijuana continues to be classified as a controlled substance under federal law, and even minimal security clearance requests require individuals to answer specific questions about any past drug use. Not all White House staff ultimately get a security clearance, but all appointees must go through a vetting process that includes determining if they are at least eligible for one.

Anyone benefiting from this waiver must, in turn, agree to cease all use of marijuana for their entire government service and accept random drug testing. These employees would also be required to work remotely for an indefinite period after their last recognized use of marijuana.

A White House official said the new guidelines “will effectively protect our national security while modernizing policies to ensure that talented and otherwise well-qualified candidates with limited marijuana use will not be prevented from serving the American people.” .

President Biden is committed to bringing the best people into government – especially young people whose engagement in public service can deepen in these positions and who can play leadership roles in our country to decades to come, “a White House official said in a statement. at NBC News. “White House policy will maintain the highest standards of government service the President expects from his administration, while recognizing the reality that state and local marijuana laws have changed dramatically across the country in recent years. “

A White House official declined to specify how many potential candidates would otherwise have been excluded from the job, only that the issue of marijuana use affected enough candidates that the administration decided to conduct a review review of existing policies.

The revised White House policy comes just days after the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management issued a memorandum to other department and agency heads of the executive outlining the criteria to be considered when evaluation of potential new hires.

“It would be inconsistent with fitness regulations to implement a policy of declaring a person unfit or unfit for federal service solely on the basis of recent marijuana use,” wrote Kathleen McGettigan. “The nature and seriousness of the use and the nature of the specific position…. Are also likely to be important considerations.

In his 2020 campaign, Biden proposed to automatically clear all previous convictions for cannabis use. But he didn’t go as far as some of his main Democratic rivals in calling for the federal decriminalization of marijuana, calling it a decision for the states.