A group of bipartisan lawmakers, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, have proposed a series of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), aiming to modernize the military’s regulations on cannabis use and address falling recruitment figures in the U.S. Army.
One of these amendments, presented by Gaetz, seeks to abolish cannabis testing for both prospective and current members of the military.
Gaetz’s proposal comes in response to a steep increase in enlistment disqualifications in the U.S. military due to positive cannabis test results.
According to military data, there has been a near 33% surge in failed entry drug tests in 2022 compared to 2020, highlighting a potential obstacle to army recruitment.
“Our military is facing a recruitment and retainment crisis unlike any other time in American history. Prior use of cannabis should not exclude Americans from enlisting in the armed forces. We should embrace them for stepping up to serve our country,” Gaetz stated.
In addition to Gaetz’s amendment, the Congressional Cannabis Caucus proposed an amendment that would permit physicians from the Department of Veterans Affairs to suggest cannabis as a medical treatment in states where its use is legal.
This proposal has garnered bipartisan support, with backing from Reps. Brian Mast, Barbara Lee, Earl Blumenauer, and Dave Joyce.
Mast, a 12-year Army veteran, and Blumenauer had previously presented a separate bill aimed at making medical cannabis a viable option for veterans.
Similarly, Lee, Joyce, and Sen. Brian Schatz, introduced the standalone Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, which would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to discuss and endorse medical cannabis to veterans where it is legally available.
The proposed act also outlines provisions for funding research into the effectiveness of medical cannabis in treating chronic pain.
Other proposed amendments include Rep. Tony Gonzales’ amendment allowing military members to possess, use, or consume hemp products, and an amendment by Rep. Robert Garcia, which seeks to prevent agencies from denying security clearances due to legal cannabis use in certain states.
Despite these proposed changes, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level.
The military maintains a stringent anti-drug policy, considering cannabis a disqualifying factor.
However, the changing legal landscape of cannabis and the difficulties of replenishing the U.S. military workforce are forcing some military branches to reconsider their stance on marijuana use.
In September 2022, the Air Force and Space Force launched a pilot program providing applicants who test positive for THC a chance for retesting and possible enlistment, indicating a shift towards more progressive attitudes.