Coasties can’t take in — or toke in — marijuana-selling joints in jurisdictions where legalization has created a bustling cannabis business market, Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said this week.
The marijuana industry, both recreational and medicinal, is currently legally operating in 11 states. Several more have mixed legal status for the plant, such as allowing medicinal use or reduced criminal penalties.
According to Marijuana Business Daily, weed retailers in Denver and Portland now eclipse the number of Starbucks outlets by nearly double. In Denver, Portland, Anchorage and Seattle markets, there are more pot retailers now than McDonald’s locations.
In a new punitive general order, Schultz said it is both illegal and against Coast Guard values to patronize pot shops or events, or expose themselves to “accidental intake.”
“Wrongful use of controlled substances, to include marijuana use, poses a significant risk to Coast Guard personnel and to unit readiness, and negatively impacts mission execution,” he said. “This ACN is a reminder that the use, possession, manufacture, or distribution of marijuana is a violation of federal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).”
“Further, 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. Finally, illegal drug use and involvement with activities, events, or entities that promote illegal drugs are contrary to our Service’s core values.”
Despite legalization in several states, Schultz stressed, “the use, possession, and distribution of marijuana remains prohibited under federal law” and “knowingly being an owner, operator, vendor, or direct investor for a marijuana business is also illegal under the UCMJ, even where permitted by state or local laws.”
“Participation in or close association with marijuana growth or distribution commercial enterprises, including assisting or encouraging these commercial enterprises, is also a violation of the UCMJ,” he added.
Under the order, Coast Guard military personnel are “prohibited from knowingly visiting, entering, remaining in, or patronizing or otherwise conducting any kind of business with any establishment whose primary and prominent purpose is the growth, manufacture, sale or distribution of marijuana or Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products in any form for either medical or recreational purposes that violate federal law.”
“This prohibition applies to fixed locations, mobile dispensaries, and online or delivery services. This prohibition does not extend to medical facilities or pharmacies distributing U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved prescription medications containing THC or cannabidiol,” the order continues. “This prohibition preserves good order and discipline and ensures the health and mission readiness of all Coast Guard military personnel.”
Violations can results in punitive action under the UCMJ for violation of Article 92, failure to obey a lawful general order, with a maximum punishment of two years behind bars, “total forfeitures of pay and allowances, reduction to E-1, and a dishonorable discharge or dismissal.”
Schultz also noted that federal workplaces are drug-free; Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) is introducing legislation that would allow prospective federal employees to test positive for marijuana in states where the drug is legal recreationally and medicinally.
“Because marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, involvement with marijuana growing or distributing could negatively impact a suitability determination for continued federal employment. Involvement with such activities and establishments may also have an impact on military and civilian security clearances,” Schultz’s order notes.
“It is contrary to our Core Values and our role as a federal law enforcement agency to participate in any event or with any entity that sells, promotes, celebrates, encourages, or seeks to further the use of marijuana and illegal THC-based products. Doing so could have negative career consequences and potentially expose our members to criminal liability,” the commandant added. “I am relying on Commanding Officers to implement the General Order as well as my Commander’s Intent. Further, I am relying on each and every member of the Coast Guard to ensure that their conduct upholds our Core Values.”