A proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act by Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida would cease cannabis testing for military members, Politico reports.
Should the amendment make it into the National Defense Authorization Act, it would further relax rules regarding cannabis testing within the military. As marijuana legalization sweeps the nation, more and more recruits seek out the benefits of cannabis, whether for recreational use, medical benefits, or both, especially in legal states. According to The New York Times, nearly 33% more recruits tested positive in 2022 than in 2020. At the time of reporting, medical marijuana is legal in 38 states and Washington, D.C., and adult-use cannabis is legal in 22 states and D.C.
Recently, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill that includes an amendment allowing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to recommend medical cannabis for their patients in legal states. It will go into effect as part of the approved legislation that funds the VA for the 2024 Fiscal Year. The amendment, sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, passed via a voice vote in June. It will yield the same results a standalone bill refiled in the House seeks to obtain, with bipartisan backing by Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, and Florida Republican Representative Brian Mast, who lost both legs while serving in the Army in Afghanistan. Blumenauer and Mast are the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
Gaetz’s proposed amendment follows other changes regarding the Federal government’s stance on cannabis use. In May, reports showed that over the past five years, the military gave 3,400 recruits who failed a drug test on their first day a “grace period to try again.” The Army waived over 3,300 recruits who failed a drug test or admitted past drug use between 2018 and 2022. Historically, the Army is considered the most relaxed (although describing the Army as “relaxed” feels like an oxymoron) compared to other military branches. The Navy traditionally has a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who fails their entry drug test. Still, even they recently started giving recruits another chance to take another drug test after 90 days if they failed the first one, as are the Air Force and the Marine Corps.
Now is a good time to point out that piss tests are basically just cannabis tests. For example, while both cocaine and heroin show up in urine for three to four days after use, cannabis lingers for roughly 30 days and sometimes even longer. So, unless one administers the drug screening shortly after taking anything other than cannabis (although remember, under Federal law, cocaine is only Schedule II, while cannabis is Schedule I), the infamous piss test only really screws over stoners, which seems rather contradictory and unfair, although in line with most conservative’s regressive attitudes about marijuana.
However, considering recent bipartisan support for cannabis reform, even that could be changing. Gaetz, a man associated with the far-right, who once voted to give Donald Trump the Nobel Peace Prize, wishes to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, is virulently against abortion rights, and once voiced support for Kyle Rittenhouse, is an unlikely stoner ally. However, he is generally pro-cannabis, once stating that the federal government has “lied to the American people for a generation” about the medical benefits of marijuana.
Gaetz’s desire to end cannabis testing for military members is tied to his desire for America to have thriving armed forces. “Our military is facing a recruitment and retainment crisis unlike any other time in American history. 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,” Gaetz said in a statement.