DOD Trumps State: Smoke Marijuana, Risk Clearance

Marijuana plants.

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Marijuana may now be legal for most people in Colorado, but the drug is still banned by Federal Law, the Defense Department and the Academy.

Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 of the state constitution, which led to legalization of the recreational use of marijuana within the state in late 2012, but Federal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice trump state law, said Maj. Darrin Skousen, the Academy's deputy staff judge advocate.

"The Federal Law governing the use and possession of controlled substances at the Academy is the 'Controlled Substance Act (CSA) 21 U.S.C. §844, Department of Defense Directive 5200.08,"' Skousen said. "Cadets, Airmen and Federal Employees must comply with Federal Law, even though Colorado law may allow for the recreational use of marijuana."

Airmen and cadets who use or possess Marijuana -- or any illicit drug for that matter -- face a court martial or other UCMJ action and cadets will most likely be disenrolled from the Academy, Skousen said.

Article 12 of the UCMJ prohibits Airmen from using marijuana regardless of location, he said.

"The DOD released a memo reaffirming this prohibition on Feb. 4, 2013," Skousen said. "Regardless of what local state, district, or territorial legislation states, military personnel are prohibited from using marijuana and are subject to prosecution under the UCMJ for any use, possession, or distribution of marijuana, or any other illegal controlled substance."

All Airmen and federal employees are subject to random drug testing. In fact, Air Force regulations require 100 percent of the Air Force population to be tested annually. 

"Federal civilian employees in a Testing Designated Position are subject to mandatory drug testing upon application for the position, as well as random and reasonable suspicion testing during employment. Federal civilian employees in positions that are not TDPs are subject to reasonable suspicion testing during employment."

Airmen are subject to the same UCMJ authority they've always been subject to and hasn't changed, said Laurie Carroll, the Academy's Manpower and Personnel director. 

"However, failing urinalysis would cause an individual to be viewed unfavorably in light of the ongoing quality force reviews and could increase their potential for involuntary separation," she said. 

Airmen, civil servants and contractors caught possessing or using Marijuana face having their security clearances revoked.

"Marijuana and other drug usage is a reportable factor for those possessing a security clearance, said Gayle Blue-Keys, the Academy's Information Protection director. 

"Generally, all military and certain civil service and contractor personnel fall into this category. Improper or illegal involvement with drugs raises questions regarding an individual's willingness and ability to protect classified information and is a reportable issue for Defense Department-level evaluation and adjudication for individuals possessing or being processed for a security clearance.

For those in the DOD who wish to stay in the Air Force, it all comes down to making the right decision, Blue-Keys said. 

"Those who have a security clearance have to make choices regarding their security clearance," she said. "If they chose poorly regarding drug usage, they can end up without a security clearance. The guidelines have not changed."

Academy Spirit staff writer Don Branum contributed to this report.

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