Although the voters in the state of Washington — home to several of the United States’ biggest naval bases — recently legalized marijuana, the Pentagon has reminded sailors that federal drug policies remain unaffected for members of the military.
The zero tolerance drug policy for all members of the U.S. Armed Forces was instituted by then-President Ronald Reagan in 1981 after the fatal crash of a Prowler on board the USS Nimitz killed 14 crew members and injured 45 others. (The crash, of course, had nothing to do with marijuana, but autopsies showed several members of the flight deck crew tested positive for pot, so that gave them a convenient scapegoat upon which to blame the tragedy.)
From that day to this one, regular, random urinalysis checks have been conducted on active duty military personnel.
“Marijuana can stay in the system for up to 30 days [Editor’s note: It’s stayed in mine for up to 47 days] depending on the person’s metabolism, dosage and method of consumption,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class David Johnson, a hospital corpsman, reports Erin Wittkop at DoDLive
. “Because it’s lipid-based, it can stay in the fat cells for a long period of time, whereas water-based substances would flow through very quickly.”
What cannabis-ignorant folks such as Petty Officer Johnson don’t realize is that the reason the human body holds onto marijuana for so long is because it needs and loves the cannabinoids. This is because using cannabis and its derivatives, either through smoking, eating, or topicals, is actually cannabinoid supplementation, augmenting the body’s own endocannabinoids, which are essential for health and homeostasis.
But since this is the Navy, they need to pretend marijuana’s a bad thing.
“Being under the influence of marijuana can result in slow reaction speed and poor judgment, and can negatively affect operational success,” claimed Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Lightsey, a legalman. “In the case of an emergency, people could get hurt. You don’t want anyone to be high while operating a jet.”
Punishments are severe. The use, possession, sale, or transfer of marijuana, “or any attempt to commit drug offenses,” results in forfeiture of a half-month’s pay for two months, reduction in rank, courts martial, three days confinement on bread and water (for sailors ranked E-3 and below), 45 days of extra duty and 45 days on restriction, or 60 days on restriction and discharge from military service.
“Aside from the typical punishment that follows drug use, there are collateral consequences to getting kicked out of the military,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Anderson, the Nimitz‘s command judge advocate. “Aside from increasing the difficulty of finding a job, you also lose your G.I. Bill. It’s not a good idea for sailors to dabble with marijuana because it’s not worth it. Before you eat that pot brownie, ask yourself if it’s worth losing $90,000.”
It’s particularly revealing that the only real consequences with which Lt. Cmdr. Anderson was able to threaten sailors were those that the Navy itself attached to the possession and use of marijuana, rather than anything actually caused by the cannabis itself.
Completely unaddressed by all the silly drama is the pervasive culture of alcohol abuse endemic throughout the Navy, and indeed throughout all U.S. Armed Forces. Here’s a drug that produces actual impairment, not just during acute intoxication but sometimes for days after use, and the Navy doesn’t have much more than a wink and a smile for its abuse, while loudly and unconvincingly wailing about the supposed dangers of marijuana.
“Drunk as a sailor,” anyone?