Army to Troops: Stay Away from Pot Fests

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

It is no secret that the United States military will practically bury those soldiers caught smoking marijuana in a dark, damp corridor underneath the Pentagon. Now one Army general in Alaska has made it clear that it’s verboten even to attend cannabis-related festivals.

Major General Bryan Owens, the leading command behind the Army stationed in the Last Frontier, issued a statement to more than 10,000 soldiers prohibiting them from attending stoned soirees, including “marijuana, cannabis or hemp fairs, festivals, conventions and similar events.”

“These types of events typically involve, but are not limited to, promoting the use of marijuana and disseminating information on the growing and processing of marijuana,” Owens wrote. “Attendance at such events is inconsistent with military service and has the potential to adversely impact the health, welfare and good order and discipline for soldiers stationed here.”

This move is just the latest in a series of governmental efforts to reaffirm with its military forces that marijuana on the federal level is still considered a Schedule I dangerous drug even though it is being legalized in states across the country for medicinal and recreational purposes. A report from indicates that signs have even been posted at some Army bases to remind soldiers that the consumption of cannabis continues to be a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (The military of course are federal employees.)

John Pennell, a spokesperson for the U.S. Army Alaska, says the general’s statement was intended to protect the well being of its soldiers and prevent them from making a mistake that could end their careers. He said the threat of the marijuana businesses luring soldiers into their shops by dangling military discounts in front of them is too much of a risk for the Army not to take a stand.

“The community here is extremely supportive of the military,” Pennell said. “In some cases that can be less than helpful. For example we’ve had a couple businesses that are in the process of getting licenses to legally sell marijuana, and they advertised a military discount.”

If anyone’s keeping track, there’s at least two levels of hypocrisy here. For the first, weed is legal in Alaska, just like, say, alcohol. (And we’re sure no Army general has ever had any problems with the abuse of that drug.) Secondly, banning even attendance at a cannabis-related event is hard to square with the U.S. Constitution (like the part in the First Amendment’s regarding the right to peaceable assembly), which is something the folks in the army are there to protect.

In any case, although Alaska legalized a recreational marijuana market a couple of years ago, there has been no legal retail weed available. Last week, Cynthia Franklin, Director of Alaska’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, said the state’s pot market would likely be up and running by February 2017.

Pennell said the Army is simply trying to get ahead of potential problems.

“The bottom line is we’re trying to keep our soldiers out of legal trouble caused by a misunderstanding of the rules,” he said.

For all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana-related news, click here.


    In the late 1970s, I was in the Army and was smoking all sorts of weed and hash.

    I signed up for the drug and alcohol rehab program and failed my drug tests religiously.

    I would even tell my counselor what drugs he was going to find in my system every week when I went to pee in a cup.

    The following week, he would always tell me “You were absolutely right”.

    Yet the Army refused to let me out.

    I solved that problem soon afterwards and got out with an honorable discharge.



  2. I hear you, Dickskus, although I got out in 1974. But the 70’s and the 21st century military are way, WAY different.

    As to the author (OP) of the article, you should know that soldiers are held to different standards when it comes to certain provisions of the US Constitution. Freedom of speech and assembly are just two of the things you lose.

    While one could marvel that the soldiers who protect the Constitution are not always protected by it, the reality is that its an essential nature of all military organizations that they have different rules than civilians.

  3. I just retired after 14 years in the Army. One thing that civilians can not understand is that in the Army you have lost most of your rights. Today it is a volunteer military, no draftees, and we fall under the UCMJ. It is the right for a commander to prohibit places that have patterns of bad conduct when soldiers attend them. All installations have a list, sometimes long, of prohibited places.
    On the same note, I got several publications about marijuana sent to me, even while deployed.
    There is a saying,”freedom is a flavor the defender never tastes”.
    While it sucks while you are in, it is a price you pay when you decide to join.

  4. It’s an interesting irony that once you join the military you swear to defend the constitution, but you are no longer governed by it. Instead you are governed by the UCMJ which has a different version of the Miranda rights. Many things that have no legal consequences in the civilian world are not legal under the UCMJ such as adultery. During my enlistment it was gay bars or events that were on the nogo list, now it’s cannibus.

  5. In ’86, I was on liberty in Thailand for a few days. It was a blast, I got drunk, laid, partied my ass off. But I did not smoke the ganja. In the weeks before our visit, we were inundated with notices to stay away from Thai weed. We were assured that upon our departure from the beach, we would be subjected to urinalysis. Everyone knew that going in.

    While on the beach, we would be approached by little kids selling Thai stick. The aroma was almost as intoxicating as the buzz, I imagine but had to refuse. Incidentally, some of the kids sold the same weed over and over. They would sell a stick to some dumbshit recruit then run around the corner to Shore Patrol who would promptly bust the idiot. They return the weed to the kid who then sought out the next rube.

    Of course, as promised, we all peed in a cup as soon as we left port. If you popped positive, you got a one-way trip back to the states where you sat in the brig while your stupid ass is processed out of the service under a less than honorable discharge. Steep price for a toke of Thai stick.

    When you enlist, you agree to accept limitations on your freedom to serve in the military. No one forces you to do this (draft notwithstanding) so it’s a choice. I took a break from cannabis while I served as every active or reserve duty service member must do.

    This won’t change for a long time, even if cannabis is legal throughout the country. Change comes to the military at the speed of a glacier.

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