Weed is becoming more accepted in society. Many businesses and organizations are becoming more lenient regarding drug testing regulations. Now Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz is proposing a bill to end cannabis testing for military. Find out what it’s all about.

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Bill to End Cannabis Testing for Military

Gaetz’s proposal would be an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. It would eliminate cannabis testing for military during enlistment or commission.

“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,” Gaetz stated on social media.

“We should embrace them for stepping up to serve our country,” the post went on to say.

The proposal would eliminate cannabis testing for military soldiers that are enlisting as well as those who are receiving commissions as officers.  

“The Secretary of the military department concerned may not require an individual to submit to a test for cannabis as a condition of enlistment of such individual as a member of the commission of such individual as an officer, of an Armed Force,” The amendment to end cannabis testing for military reads.

Ending Cannabis Testing for Military is A Sign of Recent Trends

While Gaetz’s proposed bill to end cannabis testing for military is not yet in effect, it is a sign of the times. The military has been easing its standards gradually.

Reports from May 2023 show that the military gave 3400 recruits who failed their drug tests a “grace period to try again”. The Army waived over 3300 recruits who failed drug tests between 2018 and 2022.

The Army is more relaxed than the Navy which has a zero-tolerance policy towards recruits who fail their drug test. But even they have been getting more lenient. They are now allowing recruits to take another drug test in 90 days if they fail the first one.

The Air Force and Marine Corps are adopting similar policies.

Ending Cannabis Testing for Miltary and Other Weed Amendments

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Gaetz’s proposal to end cannabis testing for the military is not the only cannabis-related proposed amendment that would alter the National Defense Authorization Act. Another amendment proposed by Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs, Reps. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), Brian Mast (R-Fl), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) would allow VA doctors to give medical opinions on cannabis.

Earlier this year, Mast, who had been a military member for 12 years, introduced a standalone bill that would allow veterans to use medical marijuana.

“Our veteran population is facing multiple epidemics, including addiction and suicide. We owe it to them to make sure they’ve got every tool possible in the arsenal to deal with the impacts of battle- that included medical cannabis,” Mast said in March, defending the bill.

Another amendment, proposed by Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-TX) would allow military members to possess, use and consume products containing hemp.

Lee and Joyce also partnered with Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) to introduce a standalone bill called the Veterans Medical Safe Harbor Act that would allow VA doctors to discuss marijuana in states where cannabis is legal. The legislation would also create funding to research marijuana’s effects on chronic pain.   

Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA) proposed an amendment to prohibit agencies from denying security clearances to individuals who used marijuana in a legal state.

How Common is Cannabis Use Among the Military?

Cannabis use has always been common among military members and that number has been growing. Statistics show nearly 33% more recruits tested positive for marijuana in 2022 than in 2020.  There is a significant increase in states where it is legal.

A 2023 study looked at how many veterans use cannabis to deal with physical and mental health issues. It revealed 77.5% use among veterans with 29.5% using marijuana during the duration of the study. Cannabis use was more prevalent among veterans who did not seek other types of therapy for their mental disorders.

Military Recruitment Issues

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Low military recruitment has been an ongoing problem in the country. The Army missed its recruitment goal last year falling short by 15,000 members. The Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy are having similar issues.

Only the Space Force is reaching its target, but this is largely due to its size. It requires just a few hundred recruits each year.

The lack of recruits means the armed forces are shrinking. The Army was forced to cut its active-duty end strength from 476,000 to 466,000. It puts the U.S. at risk in future wars.  

Several factors are at play in the military’s recruiting issues. Eligibility fell from 29% to 23% last year. The primary issues include poor fitness, drug use, and a lack of interest in joining the military.

Only 9% of Americans of service age say they want to join the military. That number is down from a recent 23%. The waning interest is likely due to increased ‘woke-ism’, a robust job market, and incidents of sexual harassment and assault.

For example, the murder of Army soldier Vanessa Guillen is likely to have discouraged many young women from joining the military.

The armed forces have been enforcing several policies to solve its recruitment issues. For example, it introduced the Future Soldier Preparatory Course last year which would help potential soldiers reach their academic and fitness goals.    

They are also easing up on standards that affect readiness. They have already relaxed restrictions on tattoos. The bill to end cannabis testing for military would also benefit this goal. They are also eliminating certain mental health conditions from their roster of things that can affect eligibility.

The military is also making it more appealing for Americans to serve. They are providing better benefits and more spousal employment programs. They are allowing families to stay on the same base longer eliminating travel issues.

They are also boosting their marketing efforts to show Americans how they can improve their lives by serving.