Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz has proposed that the U.S. Armed Forces no longer test current military members or recruits for use of cannabis. He recently filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to do away with the practice.
Part of the Republican congressman’s reasoning involves the current low recruitment rates for military service. The Army, Navy and Air Force are all expected to fall short of recruitment goals in 2023.
Currently, all armed services personnel work under a zero tolerance policy against cannabis use. Recruits are required to submit a negative test before enlisting.
“Our military is facing a recruitment and retainment crisis unlike any other time in American history,” Gaetz said, according to ABC 15 in Phoenix. “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.”
Falling Short of Recruitment Goals
All military branches are experiencing a shortage of recruits. Several branches have tried new approaches, such as altering physical standards. For example, the Army is considering new recruits who have 6% more body fat than the Army typically allows. The Army missed its 2022 recruiting goal by 15,000 soldiers.
The Pentagon also dropped its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members late last year, which Republican lawmakers felt had hurt recruitment and retainment.
Gaetz also was among the Republicans who criticized the Department of Defense for allowing drag shows at military bases. This criticism continued even after the department canceled planned shows at bases in Nevada and Germany, as well as stating publicly that the programs were not funded by taxpayers, but rather by private groups.
“If we focus on holding the high ground against our near peer adversaries, then the military is fulfilling our mission to the country, rather than engaging in a political virtue signal,” Gaetz told DOD leaders at a congressional hearing earlier this year, according to ABC 15.
More Recruits Testing Positive Than Ever Before
If Gaetz’s amendment is included in the act, it could help reduce the number of recruits who do not become military members because they test positive. Almost 33% more recruits tested positive in 2022 than in 2020.
Two other cannabis-related amendments have been introduced for consideration, according to Politico. One would allow VA doctors to give medical opinions on the use of cannabis as a treatment in states where medical cannabis is legal. That amendment came from the bi-partisan group of co-chairs from the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
Veterans have long supported more research into the use of cannabis for health and wellness. Some states, such as Michigan, have moved forward with funding research on their own.
Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican from Texas, also proposed an amendment that would allow military members to consume CBD products that are already legal under federal law.