Coast Guard Bars Its Service Members from Marijuana Dispensaries

The order, which took effect immediately, was issued in response to “a shift in the social norms” around cannabis, as well as growing marijuana dispensary numbers.

The United States Coast Guard issued an order recently that prohibits active-duty service members from going into dispensary shops and working in the cannabis industry, no matter whether marijuana is legal in their state.

According to the order, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) bans active service members from engaging in “any event or with any entity that sells, promotes, celebrates, encourages, or seeks to further the use of marijuana and illegal THC-based products.”

Coast Guard service members found to be in violation of the order could potentially spend up to two years in prison, be dishonorably discharged, and be forced to give up their pay and allowance.

“Coast Guard military personnel are prohibited from knowingly visiting, entering, remaining in, or patronizing or otherwise conducting any kind of business with any establishment whose primary and prominent purpose is the growth, manufacture, sale or distribution of marijuana or Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products in any form for either medical or recreational purposes that violate federal law,” reads the new order.

Active-duty personnel also cannot order marijuana delivered to them, nor use a marijuana-related app. Service members also cannot have any “close association with marijuana growth or distribution commercial enterprises.”

“Any involvement with [marijuana-related] activities, events or entities that promote illegal drugs is contrary to our service’s core values,” wrote Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz.

The order took effect immediately. The order does not, however, exclude active service members from using FDA-approved prescriptions that contain cannabis.

The UCMJ requires that active service members “maintain a lifestyle that neither condones the use of illegal substances nor exposes them to accidental intake of illegal drugs.”

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 33 states. However, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

Schultz noted that the order was issued not in response to a specific incident, but to clarify regulations since there has been “a shift in the social norms” related to cannabis and a growing number of dispensary locations throughout the U.S.

“As a military organization, we have to be clear and direct to providing [guidance] to our members,” said Commander Matt Rooney, Policy and Standards Division chief at Coast Guard Headquarters.

The Coast Guard is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense (DOD). The DOD, however, is considering similar policies.

Veterans Deal with Cannabis Issues

Even for retired military veterans living in states where marijuana is legal, the conflict in federal and state marijuana policies have made life difficult.

VA medical professionals are not allowed to recommend medical marijuana to their patients, even in states where it is legal, due to federal prohibition.

Additionally, veterans working in the state-legal cannabis industry are currently being denied home loan benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs because the industry is “considered unstable.”

Several Members of Congress have sought public clarification on the issue. An amendment from Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) that prohibits veterans working in the cannabis industry from being denied their rights under the G.I. bill recently passed the U.S. House.

U.S. veterans overwhelmingly back the legalization of cannabis. In a survey conducted earlier this year, 83 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans said they supported medical marijuana. In a separate study, 9 of 10 military veterans voiced support for more medical marijuana research.

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