HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington D.C., recently joined Colorado in legalizing the possession and use of marijuana. Apart from Oregon, each area has large Air Force populations.
Leaders say it’s important for military and civilian Airmen to remember that while American voters’ attitudes are shifting toward loosening restrictions on marijuana, its use is strictly forbidden for Department of Defense members. Going TDY to an area that has legalized marijuana isn’t a good excuse to light up.
“Any marijuana use is a violation of Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for military personnel,” said Col. Thomas Rogers, 75th Air Base Wing staff judge advocate.
It may seem like the regulations are cloudier for civilian DOD members living in or visiting areas where marijuana has been legalized, but that’s definitely not the case.
“Marijuana use is a crime under federal law… and Air Force policy is based on federal law, not whether any state has legalized the use of marijuana or other controlled substances.” Rogers said. “Civilian employees who use marijuana may be administratively disciplined, including termination, and are also subject to prosecution by state or federal authorities.”
Similarly, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, sent a memo to 58 federal agencies, including the DOD, echoing this fact as it relates to security clearances. It was a reminder that marijuana is still federally classified as an illegal “schedule 1” controlled substance.
“Use of illegal drugs on or off duty by federal employees in positions with access to sensitive information may pose a serious risk to national security and is inconsistent with the trust placed in such employees as servants of the public,” Clapper wrote. “Agencies continue to be prohibited from granting or renewing a security clearance to an unlawful user of a controlled substance.”
Because of the secure nature of the Air Force mission, anyone with drugs in their system or in their possession on an Air Force base, faces a good chance of getting caught, officials say. Everyone on base is subject to search. There are frequent dormitory sweeps, random vehicle inspections and drug-sniffing dogs at the gates and in parking lots.
The Air Force, including Hill AFB, also has a strong employee drug testing program. Military members, and civilians who work in “testing designated positions,” can be randomly tested at any time.
Team Hill administered 6,194 of these random tests last year, said Sue Smith, head of Hill’s Drug Demand Reduction program. The program is meant to ensure Airmen, performing work that affects the safety and lives of pilots and the public, are clean and sober.
“For most people, just knowing they could be drug tested and possibly lose their job is enough not to experiment or be coerced by peers,” Smith said.