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U.S. House Votes To Ban Military From Testing Recruits For Marijuana As A Condition Of Enrollment



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The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a large-scale defense bill that includes a section to prevent military branches from testing recruits for marijuana as a condition of enlistment has been left intact, despite opposition from the White House.

While the House Rules Committee on Tuesday blocked a number of pro- and anti-cannabis amendments from floor consideration, the full chamber’s approval of the underlying bill means the military marijuana screening section, as well as psychedelics report language, is advancing.

The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a 217-199 vote on Friday.

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Because the Rules Committee declined to make in order an amendment that would have eliminated the cannabis testing provision, this language remains intact in the approved legislation:

SEC. 532 PROHIBITION ON CANNABIS TESTING FOR ENLISTMENT OR COMMISSION IN CERTAIN ARMED FORCES.

Subject to subsection (a) of section 504 of chapter 31 of title 10, United States Code, the Secretary of the military department concerned may not require an individual to submit to a test for cannabis as a condition of enlistment of such individual as a member, or the commission of such individual as an officer, of an Armed Force.

The section mirrors a proposed amendment to DOD appropriations legislation last year that was led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

Ahead of the markup on Tuesday, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) put out a statement of administration policy that opposed the NDAA language, asserting that cannabis use is a “military readiness and safety concern.”

“Because Joe Biden was running out of ways to turn off young voters, he decided to oppose any cannabis reform that didn’t enrich big pharma,” Gaetz told Marijuana Moment on Tuesday after the OMB document was posted.

DOD told lawmakers last year that marijuana’s active ingredient delta-9 THC is the most common substance that appears on positive drug tests for active duty military service members. And several military branches have taken steps to loosen cannabis-related restrictions, including issuing waivers for recruits who test positive their first time.

The Rules Committee on Tuesday also rejected proposed amendments to prevent security clearance denials based on past marijuana use and codify that military servicemembers can’t be penalized for using or possessing federally legal hemp products and allow veterans to access state medical marijuana programs and eliminate a VA directive barring the department’s doctors from issuing cannabis recommendations.

While the panel didn’t allow the VA-specific amendment to advance as part of the NDAA, the reform was approved by the House last week as part of appropriations legislation covering Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies (MilConVA).

Meanwhile, the House-approved NDAA report contains several other marijuana-related directives that were included in the proposal as approved by the House Armed Services Committee.

One from Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) added report language for the NDAA that would require DOD to issue a report on how many service members have been discharged due to marijuana.

The committee directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to the House Committee on Armed Services and the Senate Committee on Armed Services on the number of servicemembers discharged from service on the sole basis of marijuana use not later than December 1, 2024. The report shall include the total number of servicemembers discharged over the previous ten years, the number discharged by year, and the state or location these service members resided at the time of discharge.

An additional amendment from Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) that was adopted by the panel would require a DOD briefing on sentencing for cannabis-related offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Briefing on Sentencing of Cannabis-Related Offenses Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice In 2019, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that some disparities exist in different stages of the military justice process, including at courts-martial. The committee acknowledges and commends the Department for its numerous initiatives to address identified disparities and to reform the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including by implementing sentencing parameters pursuant to section 539E(e) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022. The committee further recognizes that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has agreed with the Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation to reschedule Cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act.

 

To better understand potential disparities in sentencing outcomes for cannabis-related offenses, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretaries of the military services, to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services not later than January 31, 2025, on the following:

1) the number of convictions, broken down by service, for cannabis use for the last four fiscal years, disaggregated by time in service, rank/grade, sex, race, and ethnicity;

2) the number of convictions, broken down by service, for cannabis possession for the last four fiscal years, disaggregated by time in service, rank/grade, sex, race, and ethnicity;

3) the number of convictions, broken down by service, for cannabis use and possession, for the last four fiscal years, disaggregated by time in service, rank/grade, sex, race, and ethnicity; and

4) for each of the categories listed above, an assessment of whether any disparities exist based on time in service, rank/grade, sex, race, or ethnicity in the reviewed sentencing of servicemembers, broken down by service.

Mace has also touted a separate amendment that she said “supports states’ rights by incorporating findings from 38 state marijuana programs into research.”

The committee notes that to date, 38 states have implemented state regulatory programs for marijuana and therefore retain a level of knowledge and lessons learned regarding regulations and trends among producers, products, and consumer habits. The committee believes that the Department of Defense program established under Section 723 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 (Public Law 118-31) to study the effectiveness of psychedelic substances and plant-based therapies, including marijuana, in treating post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries should incorporate findings and data collected by State-approved marijuana regulatory programs. The committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the House Committee on Armed Services not later than January 31, 2025, on the extent to which the Department is coordinating with States which have regulatory programs for marijuana and incorporating related findings and data collected by State-approved marijuana regulatory programs.

The legislation also includes report language to follow up on provisions in the most recently enacted NDAA that provide funding for DOD-led clinical trials on the therapeutic potential of psychedelics for active duty military service members.

The report language says the committee “wants to ensure the establishment of the program is progressing without impediment,” and calls on DOD to provide Congress with a status update report by January 31, 2025.

Section 723 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 (Public Law 118-31) established a Department of Defense program to study the effectiveness of psychedelic substances and plant-based therapies in treating post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. The committee wants to ensure the establishment of the program is progressing without impediments. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services no later than January 31, 2025, on the following with regards to the progress of the program:

(1) the Department’s process for funding eligible entities;

(2) the Secretary’s selection for lead administrator to carry out the program;

(3) a list and description of the eligible entities that have been selected for the program;

(4) how the Department notified and selected servicemembers to participate in the program;

(5) how many servicemembers have requested participation in the program;

(6) how many servicemembers have been selected for participation in the program;

(7) any issues the Department is encountering establishing the program;

(8) any anticipated delays to implementing the program; and

(9) any other information the Secretary deems relevant.

Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX), a former Navy SEAL with personal experience with psychedelics treatment who championed the underlying amendment, told Marijuana Moment earlier this year that he planned to separately meet with military leadership to collaborate on how to effectively administer the program.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is considering its version of NDAA this week but hasn’t made the text of its proposal publicly available.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted to strip marijuana banking protections from a large-scale spending bill.

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