Coastguardsmen Banned from Visiting Marijuana Dispensaries

Display at a dispensary in Denver, Colorado, where recreational consumption is legal under state law (File image)

Published Aug 2, 2019 10:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Karl Schultz has issued an order banning all coast guard military personnel from "knowingly visiting, entering, remaining in, or patronizing" marijuana dispensaries or any other marijuana-related businesses. Though now legalized for medical use in the majority of U.S. states (and for recreational use in nearly a dozen), the production, sale and possession of marijuana and the psychoactive compound THC are still banned by federal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

"As part of the federal law enforcement community, I expect Coast Guard personnel to maintain a lifestyle that neither condones the use of illegal substances nor exposes them to accidental intake of illegal drugs," Schultz wrote. "Illegal drug use and involvement with activities, events, or entities that promote illegal drugs are contrary to our Service’s core values."

Schultz's order is comprehensive in scope: it bans Coast Guard military personnel from even visiting any type of business that primarily deals in marijuana or THC. It applies to storefront dispensaries, online or delivery services and mobile dispensaries, though not to medical facilities distributing FDA-approved prescription THC or cannabidiol. The rule goes into effect immediately, and violations are punishable by up to two years of confinement, forfeiture of all pay and dishonorable discharge. 

Further, Schultz warned that participating in any event that "promotes, celebrates, encourages, or seeks to further the use of marijuana" is contrary to the service's core values and could have "negative career consequences." For civilian USCG employees, Schultz noted that federal employees are prohibited from using illegal drugs, and "involvement with marijuana growing or distributing could negatively impact a suitability determination for continued federal employment" and security clearances.

Cmdr. Matt Rooney, the head of the Policy and Standards Division for the Coast Guard, told Military.com that the new rule was prompted by "a shift in the social norms" surrounding marijuana use and the drug's increasing availability. "We want to be clear to the workforce in providing our expectation that consumption of marijuana is still prohibited," Rooney said.