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Federal stance on marijuana remains unchanged
Staff Sgt. Phillip Mendoza III and Benga check a vehicle during an inspection at the Air Force Academy Jan. 7, 2013. Although possession of marijuana is legal in Colorado under Amendment 64 of the state constitution, security forces personnel at the Academy regularly conduct vehicle inspections and will either turn away or issue a magistrate court summons to anyone who is found in possession of marijuana. Mendoza is a military working dog handler with the 10th Security Forces Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)
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Academy's stance on marijuana remains unchanged

Posted 1/8/2013   Updated 1/10/2013 Email story   Print story


by Don Branum
Air Force Academy Public Affairs

1/8/2013 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Getting high won't fly at the Air Force Academy -- something just as true today as it was before Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 of the Colorado state constitution, which led to legalization of the recreational use of marijuana within the state, Nov. 6, 2012.

Federal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, not state law, guide policies and procedures at the Academy, said Col. Paul Barzler, the Academy's staff judge advocate.

"It's still illegal to possess," Barzler said.

The Manual for Courts Martial prohibits service members from possessing, using or distributing controlled substances. The federal Controlled Substances Act lists marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning the drug has "no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision and a high potential for abuse."

"The Air Force policy is zero tolerance," Barzler said. "If you abuse an illegal substance, you will be held accountable. It will jeopardize your security clearance and your job."

Offenses can lead to administrative discharges for Airmen, sometimes under less-than-honorable conditions, meaning Airmen would not be eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, Barzler said. Between 2010 and 2012, nine Airmen received non-judicial punishment for possession, use or distribution of marijuana.

Violations of Article 112A of the UCMJ, which governs controlled substances, can also lead to courts-martial. One Airman was convicted in court-martial March 26, 2010, on possession, introduction and distribution of marijuana, said Capt. Jennifer Jameson, the Judge Advocate office's chief of adverse actions.

While civilian employees and contractors do not fall under the jurisdiction of the MCM or the Uniform Code for Military Justice, the Controlled Substances Act still applies, Barzler said.

"All of us are subject to federal law," he added.

Defense Department Directive 1010.9, "DOD Civilian Employee Drug Abuse Testing Program," defines illegal drugs as any Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. Civilians who test positive for illegal drug use are referred to employee assistance programs but may also face disciplinary action up to and including termination. Civilians in positions requiring a security clearance are not allowed to return to work until they have completed rehabilitation through employee assistance.

Service members' spouses are not specifically barred from using marijuana, said Lt. Col. Ira Perkins, the 21st Space Wing staff judge advocate at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., in an Air Force Times article published Dec. 31.

However, a family member who attempts to enter a military installation under the influence of marijuana or in possession of marijuana is more concerning, Perkins added.

Master Sgt. Ryan Tanner, a flight superintendent for the 10th Security Forces Squadron, said entry controllers would stay alert during random vehicle inspections for anyone in possession of marijuana. All vehicles entering military bases are subject to search.

"It doesn't matter whether you have a prescription (for marijuana) or not, you're not coming on base (with it)," Tanner said.

At a minimum, Barzler said, entry controllers will turn away anyone found in possession of marijuana.

"They have sometimes issued summons for people to appear in magistrate court for violating federal law," Barzler added. The decision on whether to issue a magistrate court summons resides with the 10th Air Base Wing commander.

Washington voters approved Initiative 502 with 56 percent of the vote.

Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 with 55 percent of the vote. El Paso County, which is home to the Academy, Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases and Fort Carson, voted in favor of the amendment by 10 votes out of nearly 300,000 who voted Nov. 6, according to a Nov. 20 report in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

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