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Marijuana still illegal on JBLM

Federal law takes precedence for service members over new state law that legalizes marijuana use

JBLM Public Affairs Officer

Published: 12:22PM November 29th, 2012

It’s illegal to use, possess, grow, manufacture, and distribute marijuana on Joint Base Lewis-McChord and a new Washington State law won’t change that reality when it goes into effect Thursday.

That’s because federal law takes precedence over state law. So while the passage of the Nov. 6 Washington State Ballot Initiative 502 makes it legal under certain circumstances — starting Dec. 6 — for state residents over the age of 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, it’s still illegal to use, possess, grow, manufacture or distribute the drug on any military installation.

Service members must understand the U.S. armed forces have a zero-tolerance policy on illegal drugs and that using or possessing marijuana on or off base is illegal.

Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice remains unchanged for all service members. It specifically prohibits service members from using, possessing, manufacturing, or distributing marijuana under any circumstances, in any location, at any time, regardless of state or local laws. Article 112a further prohibits the introduction of marijuana (along with other controlled substances) into an installation, vessel, vehicle, or aircraft used by or under the control of the U.S. armed forces, regardless of state and local laws.

Since the initiative’s passage, the JBLM Provost Marshal’s office has received many calls from service members and family members asking about the new Washington State law and its impact on them.

According to Lt. Col. Ted Solonar, JBLM Provost Marshal, the most common questions are, “Now that marijuana is legal in Washington, how does that apply to dependents or service members off base? Can we smoke marijuana in on-base quarters? And if a dependent or guest uses marijuana off-base, and then comes on base, is that OK?”

To answer the first question, Solanar said, “The Department of Defense has not changed its policy regarding marijuana use. For DOD personnel its use is illegal wherever you are; you are still subject to the UCMJ and all penalties still apply.”

Commanders may take disciplinary action against service members for violating Article 112a regardless of the legality of the behavior in the location in which the behavior occurs.

Solonar said it’s still illegal to use marijuana anywhere on federal property and that includes military housing and barracks.

He said service members, family members, employees, contractors and visitors should not try to use the new Washington State law as an excuse for bringing or using marijuana on JBLM.

Under federal law, it remains illegal for anyone to use, possess, grow or distribute marijuana on base regardless of Washington State law. Dependents, employees, contractors, and visitors will be subject to prosecution for marijuana-related offenses that occur on JBLM, including in on-base quarters.

Regarding the question of military dependents and guests using marijuana off base and then coming on the installation, it’s illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.

“If dependents or guests choose to use it, it’s in their system, and they drive on federal property, they can be charged with driving under the influence in U.S. Federal Court,” Solonar said.

If, however, a military dependent or visitor uses marijuana off-base and then comes on base with it in their system, that’s allowable as long as they are not driving, he said.