Marijuana Legalization: Marijuana Not Welcome On U.S. Bases

ARIZONA: Regardless of what any state does to decriminalize recreational or medical marijuana, its use will not be allowed by the United States military.

That’s according to two former military lawyers.

Retired Air Force Col. Terrie Gent, a former military prosecutor, defense attorney and Air Force Court of Appeals judge, said federal law supersedes marijuana use by any active-duty personnel.

Cochise County District Attorney Ed Rheinheimer, a former Army judge advocate officer, said Congress makes the laws found in the Uniform Code of Military Justice and it will be up to Congress to eliminate marijuana use as a criminal offense, which, he said, “I don’t see happening.”

The Uniform Code of Military Justice says active duty military personnel stationed in Arizona or who are temporarily assigned to the state or vacation here cannot use marijuana for any reason.

Sgt. Lauren DeVita, a spokeswoman for the Arizona National Guard, which includes Army and Air Force, said guardsmen are prohibited from any use of marijuana, including medical.

There are nearly 30,000 active duty service members and guardsmen in Arizona and an unknown number of military reservists of all branches who call the state home. The active duty installations in Arizona include Fort Huachuca, Yuma Army Proving Ground, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Luke Air Force Base and the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma.

Rheinheimer said it’s anybody’s guess what the view on legalizing marijuana nationally will be in 10 years and what bearing that could have. Allowing gays to openly serve in the military was not on anyone’s radar 10 years ago, but now it is allowed and it required some changes to the UCMJ, he said. Rheinheimer said if the recreational use of marijuana is approved nationally, he sees a potential prohibition for those in the military because of what the armed services do.

Gent said the responsibilities of America’s armed forces require individuals whose senses are attuned to their surroundings at all times. And, she and Rheinheimer have both prosecuted and defended military clients who did use marijuana.

Gent said her successful defenses were not based on the harm of the drug — which she contends is truly harmful — but rather the successfully contesting the results of drug tests, which were not properly done. Under the UCMJ a person can be administratively discharged or sentence to prison and then kicked out of the service by a court martial, she said.

Rheinheimer said using illegal drugs “is too much of a temptation” which will grow if it is decriminalized for recreational use in states because many of those who serve in today’s military socialize with civilians and may be temped to use marijuana.

Neither of the two former judge advocate officers believe Congress will eliminate marijuana use as a criminal offense in the military.

Rheinheimer said if such an action were considered, he sees the service secretaries and the senior uniformed military chiefs fighting it, so it would not happen. Gent noted currently any changes to allow military personnel to use marijuana for any reason would be hard to get past the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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