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Military members continue to face harsh marijuana penalties despite Biden’s pardons

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President Joe Biden in 2022 and again in December pardoned thousands of Americans who were convicted of simple possession of marijuana.

Biden, in a tweet, said: “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach” to marijuana. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

Maybe, but what about military members who’ve been kicked out? Biden’s proclamation says nothing about them.

The U.S. Armed Forces continues to have a zero-tolerance policy regarding marijuana, and thousands of troops are discharged each year for failing randomly administered drug tests.

“It’s given me hope but think we still have a long way to go,” said former Marine Corps Judge Advocate Steve Simpson, a civilian lawyer whose practice focuses on military law at the Tully Rinckey law firm’s California office.

In an interview with 13News Now on Friday, he said current military policy is very inflexible, especially in cases of accidental ingestion.

“A lot of times, commanders through their staff judge advocate — they’re lawyers whose sole job is to advise their commanders on the law — will tell me, ‘Yeah, we believe this was an accident. We don’t think he or she intentionally ingested it,” Simpson said. “But, because we have a zero-tolerance policy, because we have what’s called mandatory processing, we have to send it off to a hearing. That’s the problem.”

The use of marijuana and marijuana-related substances is prohibited for all military service members (active duty, Reserve and Guard members) and Department of Defense civilian employees.

Wrongful use and/or possession of these substances is unlawful under the Uniform Code of Military Justice via Article 112A.

The maximum sentence for military members for distribution and or possession of marijuana above 30 grams is a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 5 years,

Marijuana is legal in 38 states for medical use and in 24 states — including Virginia —  for recreational use.

However, under federal law, cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

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