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Can I Join the Military If I Had a Medical Marijuana Card?

  • If you’ve used marijuana before or have a medical marijuana card, you can still enlist in the military—but you can’t be an active marijuana user.
  • Failing your drug test could get you automatically barred.
  • While some branches of the military offer waivers for retesting if you fail the first time, you’ll be permanently disqualified if you fail the second.

There are as many reasons to join the military as there are people who decide to join. You may want to join for personal reasons, to carry on a family legacy, or out of a sense of duty. Your reason may be entirely different. After all, every journey to enlistment is unique.

The reason itself isn’t as important as understanding what to expect when you embark on your military career path. You should go into this new chapter of your life with the understanding that not everyone cuts, and your marijuana use could put you at risk.

You’ve likely heard of the rigid screening process that takes place before new recruits are accepted into the fold. As a former—or current—user of marijuana, you may wonder: Will your history get you disqualified?

The good news? No, not necessarily. If you’re not using marijuana at the time of your enlistment, you won’t be disqualified through the drug tests. These days, branches of the military even offer waivers to people who fail the first round, allowing them to retest in 90 days.

Read along as we take a look at the military’s reason for banning marijuana use, how that affects you as a potential recruit, and what it means for your health journey moving forward.

Marijuana Legality in the United States

Marijuana is still illegal on a federal level. While some states have legalized it for recreational or medical use and other states continue to consider further legalization steps, it’s still a crime under federal law to possess, sell, buy, or use marijuana.

Marijuana legalization falls into one of two categories:

In states with legal recreational use, you can buy and use marijuana in the same way you would tobacco or alcohol. Most states have specialty stores that sell cannabis products, and you have to be 21 or older to enter, purchase, and consume them.

In states that only allow for the medical use of marijuana, the matter is a little more complicated. Only medical dispensaries are allowed to sell products, and you need a medical marijuana card to enter a dispensary.

How do you get a medical marijuana card? This is where TeleLeaf comes in. We connect patients with medical professionals who understand the use of marijuana in the treatment of physical and mental conditions. Those professionals help you apply for your medical marijuana card, thus getting you started on your medical marijuana journey.

State Law

Each state has its laws regulating the use, sale, distribution, and growth of marijuana.

In states where it’s fully illegal, like Texas, penalties can include:

  • Imprisonment
  • Fines of thousands of dollars
  • A felony on your record

Even having drug paraphernalia like glassware and rolling papers may land you with a misdemeanor charge, which can also involve fines and a mark on your record.

Federal Law

Federal law currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Possession of marijuana in conflict with federal law can lead to the following consequences:

  • Jail time
  • Fines and fees
  • Loss of employment or housing
  • Potential suspension of the right to bear arms

Note that Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and no medical use. Over the years, research and anecdotal evidence have disproven both of these points in the case of marijuana, leading to President Joe Biden discussing measures to deschedule it to a Class III drug.

Descheduling marijuana could decrease the stigma surrounding it, and it will reduce the severity of penalties that someone may face for possession or use.

Why Does the Military Ban Active Marijuana Users?

So, now that you know a little more about marijuana’s legality, let’s focus on the military. Simply put, if you fail a drug test during the early stages of recruitment, you won’t be allowed to join.

But why, exactly, does the military take such a strong stance against marijuana use?

We’ve already discussed one major reason: marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, and the branches of the military are federal entities. They follow the same rules and are held to the same standards as the FBI, CIA, FDA, or any other government organization when it comes to marijuana use.

There’s also the concern that marijuana use could be classified as an addiction and may decrease “military readiness.” Thus, marijuana products on the military’s list of banned items in certain branches include:

  • CBD gummies and oils
  • Acne treatments containing CBD or hemp
  • Hemp granola, protein powder, or yogurt
  • Hemp shampoos or hand sanitizers

The reasoning behind disallowing CBD is that hemp products (while legal to produce per the 2018 Farm Bill, a federal law) still contain some THC content. While hemp products are highly unlikely to get users high, the military has taken an all-or-nothing approach to mitigate operational risk.

In short: you can’t use marijuana and be part of the military due to federal laws and the risk that THC intoxication can place on military preparedness—even if the risk of THC intoxication is low for people using exclusive hemp-based products.

Exceptions For Marijuana Use

Some branches of the military have adopted less stringent policies toward marijuana use in recent years.

  • The Air Force recently launched a pilot program to give flexibility to service members in light of the sweep of statewide legalization. In the past, anyone who tested positive for THC metabolites was immediately barred from enlisting. This new program allows recruits who test positive to retest again after 90 days and enlist if the test is clean.
  • The Marine Corps offers similar waivers.
  • The Coast Guard disallows any use of marijuana for all recruited sailors.

Note that failing the second test after the 90-day waiver period will result in permanent disqualification, meaning you can’t reapply in the future.

Former Medical Marijuana Users and Military Enlistment

Here’s the good news: the history of marijuana use or even holding a medical marijuana card won’t get you barred from military enlistment. You just need to pass the drug test.

While you can use the waiver in some situations, don’t go into the drug test expecting this exception to be available to you. It can often take many days for THC to leave your system, and timelines can depend on use history, physiological factors, and other highly individual elements), so you should plan accordingly.

Consider Your Future in the Military

Having a medical marijuana card won’t disqualify you from joining the military, but being an active marijuana user will. If you intend to join the military—any branch of it, currently—then you’ll need to take a break from your medical marijuana journey.

This is, of course, a tough decision to make. Take the time you need to think things through. Would you get more benefits from medical marijuana at this point in your life? Can your enlistment wait, or do you want to enlist as soon as possible?

Keep in mind that if you decide to pursue medical marijuana, it’s always possible to stop in the future and continue with your military goals, too. This is one of the advantages of using marijuana as medicine: as your lifestyle and needs change, you can adjust your approach to meet your healing goals.

Start Your Medical Cannabis Journey with TeleLeaf

Whether you’re choosing to prioritize your health over enlistment or looking for lifestyle transition support from cannabis-informed medical professionals, TeleLeaf can help you accomplish your wellness benchmarks.

You can use TeleLeaf to apply for a medical marijuana card online, expediting your journey to healing through the use of cannabis. And, if you do decide to join the military, we can help you tweak your treatment plan as needed.

Reach out today to get started.


Sources:

US Air Force. Department of the Air Force Implements THC Retest Pilot Program
https://www.afpc.af.mil/News/Article/3172061/department-of-the-air-force-implements-thc-retest-pilot-program/

The Motley Fool. A Guide to Marijuana Legalization in the United States
https://www.fool.com/investing/stock-market/market-sectors/healthcare/marijuana-stocks/marijuana-legalization/

FindLaw. Federal Marijuana Laws
https://www.findlaw.com/criminal/criminal-charges/federal-marijuana-laws.html

Forbes. Schedule III: Why Biden’s Move Is A Win For Marijuana
https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthoban/2023/10/10/schedule-iii-why-bidens-move-is-a-win-for-marijuana/?sh=4b6793c22bc1

Marijuana Moment. Defense Department Warns That Hemp Granola And CBD Hand Sanitizer Can Compromise ‘Military Readiness’
https://www.marijuanamoment.net/defense-department-warns-that-hemp-granola-and-cbd-hand-sanitizer-can-compromise-military-readiness/

Marijuana Moment. Marijuana Is ‘Most Prevalent Drug’ In Military Drug Tests, Department Of Defense Tells Senators, With Delta-8 THC Second
https://www.marijuanamoment.net/marijuana-is-most-prevalent-drug-in-military-drug-tests-department-of-defense-tells-senators-with-delta-8-thc-second/

Healthline. How Long Does Cannabis Stay in Your System?
https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-weed-stay-in-your-system

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