Although cannabis might be becoming increasingly legal throughout the United States—33 states currently have legalized marijuana in some capacity— the country’s armed forces remain stringent on the matter. This notion was once again on display Tuesday, thanks to a general order released by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz. The official Coast Guard order forbids members from consuming legal marijuana in weed-legal states, clearing up any potential grey area in the matter.
Coast Guard Advised to Steer Clear
Coast Guard-wide message ACN 079/19 not only bars members of the Coast Guard from smoking cannabis, but it also prevents them from entering any type of business that “grows, distributes, sells or otherwise deals with marijuana.” This includes both classic brick and mortar buildings and online delivery services.
Considering cannabis is still considered a Schedule I narcotic under federal law, the ruling shouldn’t be all that of a surprise, but Cmdr. Matt Rooney told Military.com that the order was released to prevent any “ambiguity” under today’s weed-legal climate.
“The culture in certain parts of the nation is shifting around marijuana … we want to be clear to the workforce in providing our expectation that consumption of marijuana is still prohibited,” Rooney told the Military news outlet.
Failure to follow the general order falls under the umbrella of “failure to obey a lawful order,” due to the fact that the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not contain any specific orders that would otherwise bar service members from utilizing legal marijuana businesses. Maximum punishment under these pretenses includes two years confinement, total forfeiture of pay and allowances, reduction to E-1, and a dishonorable discharge.
Rooney also noted that members of the Coast Guard should steer clear of other cannabis-based products that don’t contain THC, including hemp and CBD oil, due to the unregulated nature of the business.
“We advise everyone to err on the side of caution,” Rooney said. “If they have a desire to use a product that may or may not fall into the definition of what’s prohibited, they should seek guidance or use caution.”
The Future of Marijuana in the Military
General order ACN 079/19 only affects members of the Coast Guard, who rank under the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Defense. However, members of the military have been issued a similar, informal warning regarding legal marijuana—under no circumstances is it ok to consume. This includes—you guessed it—within the confines of cannabis-legal states.
“We understand there might be confusion,” Donna Clouse, the prevention services branch chief for the Army’s Substance Abuse Program said. “especially for individuals who live in the states where marijuana use is legal.”
However, the unclear nature of policy could change within the year.
Shannon McGuire, a counsel for the Air Force Ethics Office, said in a March 6th email obtained by the Forum, that the Department of Defense could make a uniform policy sooner, rather than later.
“SOCO hopes to put out guidance soon,” McGuire said. “So please continue to stand by. I know there are a lot of emails floating around on this issue. Continue to have your legal offices hold off on certifying financial disclosures with marijuana-related holdings for the time being.”