Thursday, December 4, 2014

Zero Tolerance for Marijuana in the Military

Veterans Equal Access Act Released Dec 3, 2014
   The U.S. Military holds a zero tolerance for marijuana use. Federal laws govern the military on cannabis use. New policies and studies from the federal government show promise of a policy shift to allowing medical-marijuana for military veterans.

   Marijuana possession is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Military personnel can be penalized with a court martial. The zero tolerance also includes military families on base. Possession can result in eviction of housing or loss of job on the base.(Source)

   There are 23 states that have legalized medical-marijuana. Military personnel in these states still have to adhere by the federal and UCMJ laws. Seventy-five percent of the soldiers were drug tested at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington in 2013. Of the 30,836 soldiers tested, 250 tested positive. This is down from 2012 which had 315 testing positive. At Fort Carson in Colorado they tested all 26,000 soldiers having 254 test positive for marijuana in 2013.

   “The results of our continued drug testing demonstrate the commitment soldiers have to the Army profession, regardless of a state’s legalization of marijuana,” Army Spokesman Lt. Col. Benjamin Garrett commented on the zero tolerance for marijuana. “With 98 percent of the Army population testing negative for illicit drugs, soldiers demonstrate their ability to take responsibility for themselves, reinforcing the fact that our drug testing program is working.” (Source)

Signs of Change for the Zero Tolerance
   The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010 stated that veterans may use medical-marijuana in states where it is legal. Under federal law it remained illegal for VA doctors to recommend cannabis as treatment. Veterans wanting medical-marijuana would need to obtain the prescription from a civilian doctor. This statement allowed veterans to not fear losing benefits if they used marijuana.(Source)

   The U.S. Government in March 2014 approved to study for marijuana treatment for veterans with PTSD. The study will have 50 veterans with PTSD use different amounts of marijuana in a vapor or smoked form. This study may show a shift in federal policy with regards to marijuana and the use in the military.(Source)

   On December 3rd, 2014 the Veterans Equal Access Act was released. It would allow VA doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for veterans.(Source) This comes at a crucial time for veterans when many suffer from PTSD and other conditions. Currently Arizona, Connecticut, Maine and New Mexico recognize cannabis as a treatment for PTSD.(Source) The VA working at a federal level may help open the doors for many other states to qualify PTSD as a condition that medical-marijuana can treat.


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