Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has called for an end to marijuana testing upon enlistment in the military and upon receiving a commission as an officer, citing the ongoing recruitment crisis.
The New York Times reports that the number of military recruits who tested positive for marijuana rose by nearly 33% from 2020 to 2022. In response to this increase and the rising number of states legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the military has eased drug testing regulations — including giving second chances to take the drug test for more than 3,400 recruits who failed the test on their first day over the past five years.
In a statement, Gaetz explained the motivation behind his proposal to amend the National Defense Authorization Act to end marijuana testing upon joining the military — noting that the move may help to alleviate the ongoing recruitment crisis.
“Our military is facing a recruitment and retainment crisis unlike any other time in American history. I do not believe that prior use of cannabis should exclude Americans from enlisting in the armed forces. We should embrace them for stepping up to serve our country,” the statement read.
Our military is facing a recruitment and retainment crisis unlike any other time in American history.
I do not believe that prior use of cannabis should exclude Americans from enlisting in the armed forces.
We should embrace them for stepping up to serve our country. https://t.co/5K2G8hGwO5
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) July 5, 2023
Several other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have advocated for similar measures to ease restrictions on marijuana use as it relates to the military.
Members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus — including Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and David Joyce (R-OH) — previously proposed legislation allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to give medical opinions and recommendations on marijuana as a treatment for patients in states where marijuana has been legalized.
Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) has also proposed an amendment allowing military members to consume CBD products — which are already legal under federal law.
Despite growing support for legalizing marijuana on both sides of the aisle, it remains illegal under federal law. Thus far, 38 states have legalized marijuana for medical use, and 22 states have legalized it for recreational use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Washington, D.C. has also legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use.