Lawmakers seek to loosen rules on marijuana use by military recruits and security personnel - Read of Green
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Lawmakers seek to loosen rules on marijuana use by military recruits and security personnel



Source: Marijuana Moment

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan pair of lawmakers is pushing to loosen the rules around past marijuana use for military recruits, as well as applicants for security clearance, to help increase the number of defense personnel as the Defense Department struggles with recruitment.

To counter what he called “a recruitment and retainment crisis unlike any other time in American history,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., has proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would eliminate marijuana testing for military recruits and allow those who had recently used the drug to enlist in the military.

Known as the NDAA, the bill, an annual reauthorization of U.S. military programs, is considered must-pass legislation, meaning any adopted amendments stand a greater chance of becoming law.

Asked about his proposal, Gaetz said in a statement: “I do not believe that prior use of cannabis should exclude Americans from enlisting in the armed forces. We should embrace them for stepping up to serve our country.”

A Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment on pending legislation.

Recreational marijuana is legal in 23 states, with medical marijuana allowed in 15 more. A poll conducted last year by Monmouth University found that 54% of U.S. adults said they have used marijuana in their lifetimes.

The prevalence of marijuana use is creating recruitment challenges, as many recruits cannot pass the drug tests required for service. Last year, nearly 5,000 recruits failed their entry drug tests, according to military data The New York Times obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The number was up 33% from two years earlier.

NBC News reported last year that every branch of the military has faced recruiting challenges. One factor cited by military officials is that many potential recruits are disqualified from serving because of existing policies. The Army’s chief of staff, Gen. James McConville, told Congress last year that less than a quarter of all Americans ages 17 to 24 are qualified to serve, largely because of obesity, criminal records and drug use.

For those who do enlist, past marijuana use can be a roadblock to obtaining security clearances. Applicants for security clearances are required to disclose any drug use, including the legal use of marijuana, in the past seven years, though the Office of Personnel Management aims to change those rules.

Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California, where recreational marijuana is legal, has proposed an amendment to the NDAA that would prohibit “the denial of security clearances by an agency on the sole basis that an individual used marijuana if, under the laws of the state where the individual used marijuana, such use was lawful.”



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