Navy Looks to Relax Its Cannabis Rules, But Not Completely

Navy Looks to Relax Its Cannabis Rules, But Not Completely
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It looks like the U.S. Navy is getting ready to relax some of its cannabis rules. But before anyone gets excited thinking about all the possibilities of the armed forces giving a green light to marijuana consumption, the Navy is not going that far. At this point, Navy officials are only looking at changing how they manage recruits who show up to bootcamp and fail a drug test.

Like every other branch of the U.S. military, the Navy has a long-standing policy of zero tolerance. Any recruits who fail their initial drug tests upon arriving at boot camp are immediately sent home. That’s it. But due to recruiting short falls and other challenges, the Navy is poised to start granting waivers in certain cases.

More Leeway for Individual Cases


According to a report on the website, Navy rules have been slightly relaxed to provide more leeway for individual cases. If a recruit now fails a drug test and immediately owns up to using marijuana, officials have the option of digging a little deeper to learn what is going on with that person. If further investigation reveals that marijuana use will not be a problem moving forward, the recruit could be allowed to stay and go through boot camp.

Rear Adm. James Waters told that the decision to relax the rules somewhat is partly due to the Navy’s desire to be “reflective of where legislation is in society.” He went on to explain that the Navy recognizes public opinion and state laws regarding cannabis. He said that the Navy trusts its boot camp process to bring recruits in line with Navy culture.

To be clear, this does not mean that the Navy is rescinding its zero-tolerance policy toward drug use. Likewise for the other three branches of the U.S. military. Drug use is simply not allowed, period.

Medical vs. Recreational Use


It is not entirely clear if the Navy will distinguish between medical and recreational consumption. If it is a case of a recruit using marijuana once or twice in the weeks prior to reporting for bootcamp, an investigation could clear things up and lay the groundwork for that person continuing on to boot camp. But medical cannabis consumption is an entirely different matter.

Zion Medicinal is a medical cannabis dispensary serving the Cedar City and St. George portions of southern Utah. They explain that the number one reason for applying for a medical cannabis card in Utah is managing chronic pain. Indeed, pain is the leading motivator for medical cannabis consumption nationwide. But is someone dealing with chronic pain a good candidate for military service?

It is hard to imagine a chronic pain patient even applying to be in the military. But what about a patient who uses medical cannabis to control nausea? What about someone who uses it as a PTSD treatment? There are some isolated instances in which the chronic illnesses a person deals with might not necessarily be disqualifying for military service. And yet, medical cannabis consumption could still prove problematic.

Yet Another Source of Distraction

From my perspective as a late middle-aged civilian, the question about cannabis consumption and military service is yet another distraction that is preventing our military from reaching its full potential. Over the years we have seen the military become a testing ground for social policies. That is both foolish and dangerous.

The defense of our country demands that our forces be the best they can be. Let civilians decide social issues. Meanwhile, we should insist on the very best within military ranks.

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