How do active soldiers change their attitudes towards cannabis?
California is the latest state to start selling marijuana legally. This challenges thousands of active servicemen and their families.
California is the latest state to legalise the sale of marijuana. And the state has a lot of military facilities, which means the military is trying to overcome new laws. Steve Walsh of member station KPBS tells the story.
WILL SENN: behind you, you have all the enrichment we provide, and if you want to develop your own seeds.
Steve Walsh: Wilson will own urbain, the brand that began selling marijuana for recreational use on the first day of its legal opening in California this year. He has a long line outside his store in San Diego.
SENN: you know, you can see people walking at the door. This is your next-door neighbor. This is your aunt. This is your grandmother.
WALSH: it may also include sailors’ wives or marines’ husbands, but not members of the service, who still need a zero-tolerance policy on marijuana. For people in California and their commanders, it makes life more challenging. Jeff Carver, a lawyer and retired JAG officer in San Diego, defends those who are not eligible for the drug test. He reads from the navy’s latest edition of the martial arts manual.
JEFF CARVER :(reading) in the army, any – italics – the drug attack is serious because it has an adverse effect on preparation and performance.
WALSH: in addition to a few exceptions, being caught in your blood with marijuana or THC means you may face emissions and the end of your military career.
Kiefer: if you want to be a secretary in the navy, you want to do this job, you can’t smoke pot. You can’t eat marijuana brownies. If they smoke pot, you may not be able to hang out with friends.
WALSH: the army has long struggled with marijuana. The scale of drug use in Vietnam is causing evening news, and the pentagon is upset. The report appeared on CBS.
(record file)
Unidentified man # 1: a recent survey estimates that more than 50 percent of Vietnamese soldiers use marijuana.
Unidentified man # 2: you were really stoned to death.
WALSH: according to a pentagon study, nearly 70 percent of combat troops are using marijuana at some point. In 1981, some sailors involved in the crash of the nmiz aircraft had marijuana in their systems. This led to a zero tolerance policy. This is almost the whole point of today’s military policy. But in recent years, the pentagon has been looking at this policy. In the Obama administration last year, in a speech in front of people in silicon valley, defense minister ASHLEY carter suggests that the pentagon is rethinking its position, at least before joining the use of marijuana.
(record file)
ASH CARTER: we need to understand – and we have – in the way of people – that life has changed – not against what they did when they were young. So that’s an important question. The answer is yes. We can be flexible.
Walsh: the current defense secretary, James mattis, didn’t talk about it. But there are other signs that the military may be softening its zero-tolerance policy. The army and navy have already allowed potential recruits to be exempted from the use of marijuana before joining the army. Last year, the air force canceled the use of marijuana as a reason to ban military service, as long as it did not cause penalties. Jeff carver, a San Diego lawyer who represents military clients, said that while the marijuana test may have kicked you out of the navy, most cannabis cases are no longer subject to criminal trials. He said the commander was aware that social attitudes had changed.
Carver: more dedication, more love than ever before. I mean, these members realize that young sailors may have to always resist the offer of marijuana. You know, punishment can become more liberal.
WALSH: this does not mean that sailors can expect a free pass. U.S. naval base San Diego naval base commander in leisure agent before the legalization of marijuana in California issued a statement, reiterated that marijuana is still strictly forbidden under federal law, and we continue to carry out our zero tolerance policy. For NPR news, I’m Steve Walsh of San Diego.


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