Despite Legalization, Fewer Soldiers Are Using Marijuana
The marijuana legalization experiment in Washington and Colorado has contradicted all expectations of Army leaders. A new Army report indicates that the rate of soldiers testing positive for marijuana is actually trending downward in the post-legalization landscape, The Colorado Springs Gazette reports.
Yet, the change is almost unnoticeable and officially counts as statistically insignificant, since it barely dips below a relatively flat line of the marijuana usage rate.
“With one minor exception, the data is trending downwards, though it remains relatively flat and the changes are statistically insignificant,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Justin Platt wrote in an email from the Pentagon. At Fort Carson in Colorado, the number of soldiers testing positive for marijuana has dropped from 725 to 422, a 58 percent reduction.
But with the gradual normalization of marijuana comes various problems. Federal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice still apply to the military as an institution of the federal government, meaning that civilian spouses bringing marijuana onto bases still face the chance of prosecution, even if it pot is legal in the state. Other methods of discipline may include spouses being kicked off base housing.
The issue remains slightly hazy, however, after a legal advisor from the 21st Space Wing at the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado stated that it’s “not my business what spouses do off base.”
For example, in 2010, an Oregon National Guard reservist had to fight off a court martial for bringing marijuana on base, despite the fact that she had a license. She used marijuana to treat rheumatoid arthritis and Sjorgren’s syndrome. A court martial for marijuana can result in up to years of jail time
Army leaders have since switched their tune since examining the data on usage rates, arguing that the present decrease represents solid leadership at military bases near marijuana shops. However, part of the strategy employed by Army leaders has been to pressure the regions surrounding military bases to ban recreational sales. Still, not all municipalities have cooperated.
In keeping pace with marijuana legalization in several states, the Department of Defense has increased random testing and vigorous education to target the uniform service, not wanting to repeat the post-Vietnam War disaster, in which a significant number of returning soldiers struggled with drug addiction.
“That’s a sign of good leadership,” said Army Gen. Chuck Jacoby, who although fine with state laws legalizing marijuana, is adamant that military bases need to be held to a higher standard.
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