Rep. Matt Gaetz Moves To End Military Marijuana Testing

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has made a bid to end marijuana testing for military personnel at the time of enlistment and when receiving a commission as an officer. Gaetz’s proposal comes as a proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), seeking to address a rising concern within the U.S. military – the escalation of recruits testing positive for cannabis.

“Our military is facing a recruitment and retention crisis unlike any other time in American history,” Gaetz proclaimed. Indeed, the number of military recruits testing positive for cannabis increased by nearly 33% from 2020 to 2022, according to The New York Times.

To alleviate this, the military has begun easing drug testing regulations. Over the past five years, more than 3,400 recruits who initially failed a drug test were offered a second opportunity, The Times reported. This amendment aligns with the military’s current approach, considering the legal status of cannabis in numerous states.

To put it in perspective, marijuana remains federally illegal, despite being legal for medical use in 38 states and Washington, D.C., and for recreational use in 22 states and Washington, D.C. This dichotomy between federal and state law creates a gray area for military personnel, especially those based in states where marijuana use is legal.

Adding to this progressive shift, other members of Congress are proposing similar amendments to ease restrictions on cannabis use in relation to the military. Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and David Joyce (R-OH) of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus have proposed legislation to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide medical opinions on cannabis as a treatment option in states where it’s legal. In another action, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) has proposed an amendment permitting military members to consume CBD products, which are legal under federal law.

These efforts come amid a crisis in military recruitment. As Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently pointed out on Wednesday during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force: “Americans like you have joined our military, out of conviction and not out of compulsion.” Yet, college has become a more attractive option for high school graduates, with 62% opting for higher education. Further exacerbating this issue is a concerning health crisis with 77% of American youth found ineligible to serve under military physical, mental or background requirements, according to a Pentagon study.

The Army is expected to fall short of its 65,000 recruitment goal by 15,000 this year. Meanwhile, the Air Force and Navy also struggle to meet their targets. U.S. military chiefs are concerned that inadequate recruitment numbers may limit the country’s ability to face multiple conflicts simultaneously, particularly from significant global powers such as Russia and China.

Rep. Gaetz’s amendment could be a crucial first step toward modernizing recruitment practices, potentially bridging the gap between the increasing legal acceptance of cannabis and the needs of the military in this challenging recruitment climate. While the nation debates the merits and implications of this significant policy shift, it’s clear that the status quo is becoming an untenable option for a military struggling with recruiting and changing societal norms.

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