US Military to Advance Legalization of Marijuana in the Military
Source: Rep. Matt Gaetz Proposes A Ban On Marijuana Testing In The US Military, Dario Sabaghi, forbes.com
Currently, bipartisan lawmakers in the United States Congress are seeking to relax guidelines regarding the use of marijuana by service members, partly in an effort to strengthen military recruitment.
Conservative figure and Florida representative Matt Gaetz is the latest lawmaker to propose changes to the military’s standards regarding marijuana. The Florida representative introduced an amendment on Thursday to end marijuana testing for service members. He proposed including this amendment as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is a congressional bill passed each year to authorize military programs. Gaetz’s amendment suggests eliminating marijuana testing for service members during enlistment or promotion.
In a tweet, he wrote, “Our military is facing an unprecedented recruitment and retention crisis in American history. I do not believe past marijuana use should categorically exclude patriotic Americans from service. We should welcome them to serve our nation.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 38 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. In 23 states and the District of Columbia, legislatures have passed measures to regulate non-medical marijuana use.
In recent years, the military has faced recruitment crises and has implemented various strategies to increase personnel, such as offering bonuses and eliminating the requirement for recruiters to have a high school diploma or equivalent qualification within a week in 2022. In 2017, the military relaxed the process for granting waivers for marijuana use due to the increasing demand for new soldiers.
In addition to Gaetz, lawmakers from both parties have also proposed amendments to modify the NDAA to relax the military’s regulations on marijuana use. The proposed amendment by the Congressional Cannabis Caucus allows doctors from the Department of Veterans Affairs to discuss and recommend marijuana as a treatment option to patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. The amendment has garnered bipartisan support, including representatives Brian Mast from Florida, Barbara Lee from California, Earl Blumenauer from Oregon, and Dave Joyce from Ohio. Mast, who served in the military for 12 years, and Blumenauer introduced a standalone bill earlier this year to make medical marijuana an option for veterans.
Mast stated in March, “Our veteran population faces multiple epidemics, including addiction and suicide, and we have a responsibility to ensure they have every tool available to deal with the aftereffects of battle, including medical marijuana.”
Lee and Joyce, as co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, along with Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii, introduced a standalone bill called the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, which allows doctors from the Department of Veterans Affairs to discuss and recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where medical marijuana is legal. The legislation also provides funding for research on the effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating chronic pain.
Republican representative Tony Gonzales from Texas introduced an amendment that allows service members to possess, use, or consume any products containing marijuana.
Representative Robert Garcia from California proposed an amendment that prohibits institutions from denying security clearances based on an individual’s legal use of marijuana in a state where it is legal.
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