As it stands, military service members who admit to using marijuana just once—and even if they were in a legal state—can be barred from reenlisting. For the second year in a row, however, a congressional committee approved an amendment that would help resolve the issue.
The measure, introduced by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), would allow heads of military branches to grant waivers on a case-by-case basis for service members applying for reenlistment who say they consumed cannabis, or were convicted over a misdemeanor marijuana offense. The House Armed Services Committee adopted the proposal as part of a package with several other amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday.
Smoking pot just once shouldn’t prevent a patriotic American from fighting for our country.
We need to exercise common sense when it comes to our marijuana policies. I’m glad my #FY21NDAA amendment will lead us in that direction by allowing case-by-case reenlistment waivers.
— Ruben Gallego (@RepRubenGallego) July 1, 2020
“Smoking pot just once shouldn’t prevent a patriotic American from fighting for our country,” the congressman said in a press release. “We need to finally exercise some common sense when it comes to our marijuana policies, and I’m glad my amendment will lead us in that direction.”
Text of the measure states that, within 90 days of the enactment of the bill, the Secretary of Defense “shall prescribe regulations that permit any Secretary of a military department to grant a reenlistment waiver to a covered person if the Secretary determines that the reenlistment of that covered person is vital to the national interest.”
Service members who have “admitted to or been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction of a single violation… of any law of a State or the United States relating to the use or possession of cannabis” would be covered, as long as it’s a misdemeanor offense and did not occur during active duty.
When Gallego introduced the same amendment last year, he said the reasoning was because he was approached by a constituent who served in the Marine Corps, took leave to study law and later returned to a military recruitment office where he was asked about his cannabis use.
When he admitted to consuming marijuana once in a state where it’s legal, the recruitment officer told him he could either walk away or lie about the experience.
Last year’s version was passed by the House, but the Senate did not adopt similar language and it was not included in the final bill signed into law by the president.
There’s another cannabis-related amendment to this year’s defense appropriations legislation on the Senate side that a bipartisan group is hoping to get inserted.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) proposed a measure to promote studies into cannabis and its derivatives, provide protections for doctors that discuss marijuana with their patients and encourage the development of Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs based on cannabinoids. It’s not clear if the proposal will receive a vote on the Senate floor, however.
Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.