Washington residents will soon be able to legally purchase marijuana from
special retail stores in the coming months – the state's military
members, however, have been warned to abstain.
Specifically, service members in Washington have been reminded that purchasing
or possessing marijuana will result in not only criminal charges but also
career-ending discipline with revocation of benefits, as the substance
is still federally banned.
Nor will any exceptions be made for medicinal marijuana. "Our soldiers
understand what's legal," Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, the senior
Army officer at Washington base Lewis-McChord, stated last week. "From
our perspective, marijuana or any type of illegal drug is something that's
Washington's National Guard commander has also weighed in on the issue.
"Use of marijuana is illegal under federal law and Department of
Defense policy," Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty stated in a 2012 memo.
"Recent passage of Initiative 502 legalizing marijuana under Washington
state law does not change this policy. All soldiers and airmen are hereby
ordered not to possess or use marijuana at any time."
Interestingly, recent numbers from test results at Lewis-McChord suggest
that drug use has not been overwhelmingly problematic; last year, of 86,856
urinalysis tests completed (amounting to roughly two tests per solider
per year), 1,123 tests yielded positive results indicative of drug use.
Of those 1,123 tests, only 396 were marijuana. These numbers had significantly
declined since 2011.
These seemingly low numbers will not, however, lead to change in military
policy. "Statistically it is insignificant, but we are monitoring
for any upward trends that impact our ability to recruit the best and
brightest to serve in our Army," Seattle Recruiting Battalion Commander
Lt. Col. Ron Henry stated.
Such tests are ordered at random, and no one is exempt; even the Army Attorney
assigned to administer Lewis-McChord courts martial was selected for a
urinalysis just last year during his prosecution of Kandahar massacre
defendant Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.
In terms of recruiting, past marijuana use does not render candidates ineligible
for any of the military's service branches. Further, according to
the Army Recruiting Command, enlistees who admit past
drug use are neither flagged nor tracked throughout their service. Henry himself,
having disclosed prior marijuana use when he joined the Army in 1991,
identifies with recruits who may have lacked discretion in the past. "We
understand young people sometimes make poor decisions, and they learn
from their mistakes," he said.
Once enlisted, however, a failed test result will result in the military's
official withdrawal of its offer.