Last week, Democratic Representative from Arizona Ruben Gallego’s amendment to the House National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed. If approved by both the House and Senate, it would allow people who had formerly enlisted in the military to reenlist if they admit they used cannabis while they were not enlisted. The amendment also applies to former military who were convicted of a misdemeanor related to cannabis.
“The Secretary of Defense shall prescribe regulations that permit any Secretary of a military department to grant a reenlistment waiver to a covered person if the Secretary determines that the reenlistment of that covered person is vital to the national interest,” the amendment reads.
It goes on to explain that a “covered person” is someone “separated, discharged, dismissed, or released from the Armed Forces…who has admitted to or been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction of a single violation of any law of a State or the United States relating to the use or possession of cannabis that constitutes a misdemeanor; and that occurred while that individual was not performing active service.”
Currently, those who have been charged with cannabis or admit to using cannabis (even in a state where cannabis is legalized for recreational adult use or has a medicinal cannabis program) cannot reenlist. Gallego has long been an advocate of cannabis legalization.
“I support full legalization of marijuana,” Gallego said in 2018. “Marijuana is less harmful than other regulated products, including alcohol, when used properly by adults. I believe that its regulation makes it even safer, and allows states to economically benefit through reasonable taxation – shifting production and sale of marijuana away from drug cartels and criminals and into the hands of tax paying businesses that are subject to strict regulations.”
A former marine, Gallego has proposed the amendment twice before but now it is included in the NDAA. “Our nation’s views on marijuana use are changing, and the services have changed their recruitment process accordingly,” Gallego said last year. “The services can, where appropriate, grant waivers to former users of marijuana who want to serve their country in uniform.”
The scope of former military who used cannabis who are allowed to reenlist is fairly limited. Waivers for those who used cannabis to be able to reenlist would be accepted case-by-case. The amendment must pass both the House and the Senate and then those two bills are combined and given to the present to sign, making it law.
“Smoking pot just once shouldn’t prevent a patriotic American from fighting for our country,” Gallego said in a July 1 press release after the amendment passed. “We need to finally exercise some common sense when it comes to our marijuana policies, and I’m glad my amendment will lead us in that direction.”
Photo by Bumble Dee via Shutterstock