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Troops Who Previously Used Marijuana Get Second Chance Under New Provision

A House committee approved an amendment that would allow military service members to reenlist despite previous cannabis use.

The military makes no confusion about its views on marijuana. Despite widespread legalization and rising positive marijuana drug tests for Army soldiers, military service members who confess to consuming cannabis just once are barred from re-enlisting under current law.

But late last Thursday the House Armed Services Committee approved an amendment to its $740.5 billion defense policy bill that could grant a second chance to those troops. Rep. Ruben Gallego submitted a proposal alongside the bill that would create a one-time reenlistment waiver for former service members who admitted marijuana use. Approval would be granted on a case-by-case basis under the provision.

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“Smoking pot just once shouldn’t prevent a patriotic American from fighting for our country,” Gallego said in a release. “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.”

Gallego, a Marine Corps combat veteran who served in Iraq, has submitted this proposal for the past couple years. The rider was approved in the 2019 defense spending House bill, but was removed in reconciliation with Senate defense bill.

Marijuana For Veterans
Photo by PeteMuller/Getty Images

At the time, Gallego said a conversation with a constituent inspired the provision. After studying in law school, the constituent went to reenlist in the Marine Corps and admitted to using cannabis. The recruiter told him to either lie about smoking marijuana or else forget being reenlisted.

“There’s ample evidence that the social and personal consequences are far worse for alcohol use than for marijuana use—but we wouldn’t be able to assemble even one Marine Corps regiment if we excluded everyone who’s ever had a sip of beer or whiskey,” Gallego previously said.

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Gallego’s provision is the only cannabis-related rider on the House bill, but a bipartisan group led by Sen. Diane Feinstein have their own proposal they’d like to attach to the Senate’s defense policy legislation. The amendment would institute requirements into CBD research and provide protections for doctors who discuss cannabis treatment with their patients. It is unclear whether the amendment will make it onto the Senate floor for further discussion or not.

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