Despite the rising call to allow veterans access to medical marijuana, the Army wants active members to remember that smoking up, even in legal states, is still against military policy.
Army bases across the country now feature large posters warning military members of the 'costs of marijuana' that encourage members to avoid the drug. It's all part of the military's ongoing push to reduce use of marijuana among soldiers. That's because cannabis "continues to be the drug of choice" for members of the US Army, says Army Substance Abuse Program branch chief Donna Clouse. And while cannabis is legal for medical and recreational use in a growing number of states, the federal prohibition of marijuana means military members simply aren't allowed to use it.
"We understand there might be confusion," Clouse told Texas Public Radio. "Especially for individuals who live in the states where marijuana use is legal."
There are certainly many active members who do consume cannabis, though most understand what getting caught could mean for their career and so choose not to speak about it. Veterans, on the other hand, have become increasingly vocal about the need for both vets and active members to have access to what is an effective medication. Not to mention that military members living in states where cannabis is legal are barred from using a substance that is legal for the rest of the adult population.
However, military officials aren't the only ones working against active members and veterans. In cities like Colorado Springs where there are several active military bases, the sale of recreational cannabis has been banned by local lawmakers even though the substance is legal at the state level in Colorado. Legislators say they fear that allowing recreational cannabis sales in their city would mean the Department of Defense would relocate their bases and with them all the economic benefits they provide.
"The last thing we need to do is make recreational marijuana yet another reason why the Defense Department opts to take missions, troops, personnel…and move it somewhere else," said Colorado Springs City Council member-elect Wayne Williams.
However, people like local medical marijuana dispensary owner Andrew Heaton argue that having legal cannabis stores wouldn't necessarily increase consumption rates among those working on base. Cannabis is easy enough to get on the black market that soldiers who want to get the stuff won't have any trouble doing so anyway.
While there have been some changes made to military marijuana policy in recent years, the military has continued to resist any effort to allow vets and active members to use either medical or recreational cannabis without fear of repercussions. And as Clouse says, military members shouldn't expect anything to change until there is widescale cannabis reform on the federal level, a statement that has previously been made by Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie.
There are a few bills currently making their way though Congress that have the power to change that, however. Plus, the growing support for cannabis legalization among presidential candidates could mean that things will finally change within the next few years.