Great American veterans are rolling in their graves this Memorial Day. If U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) had to face Norman Schwarzkopf, George Patton, Chesty Puller, or Dwight Eisenhower, his dressing down would be worse than an angry letter. Never once has he served in the military; yet, Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), has decided to join President Biden’s efforts to further weaken the U.S. Armed Forces.

Last week, HASC voted to advance the annual must-pass defense budget bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Approved by Rogers, the bill includes a dangerous provision pushed by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) that should concern all Alabamians: a prohibition on marijuana testing for military enlistment. Yes, that’s right. Let the potheads join the military.

This not only goes against Alabama values but basic military common sense. That’s why it’s puzzling that Rogers would ignore the outreach of Alabama conservatives and veterans, supporting stoner soldiers instead.

But perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. According to the pro-marijuana group The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws’ congressional scorecard, Rogers has a C+ rating (most Republicans receive Fs or Ds). His grade is higher than many liberal Democrats and just slightly lower than President Joe Biden’s B-.

Rogers has historically supported Democrat-led pro-marijuana bills. Time and again he’s voted to financially legalize marijuana by supporting the Chuck Schumer-backed SAFE Banking Act. In 2019, he voted for a provision introduced by far-left U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Barbara Lee (D-Texas) to prevent the Justice Department from enforcing the law against states that permit legal weed. Apparently, blocking marijuana testing in the military is just the latest in a series of pro-pot votes by Rogers.

As veterans, banning marijuana testing deeply concerns us because our military already has a marijuana problem. New data from the Department of Defense shows that marijuana is the most used drug in the armed forces. Pot accounted for 73.4% of all unique positive drug test results among active-duty service members. Drug use can also have significant negative effects on our soldiers' physical and mental health. Allowing more drug use will only worsen the problem.

Please recall that American Sniper Chris Kyle was murdered by a fellow veteran suffering from marijuana psychosis.

Consuming any illegal drug is a red flag, but it also calls into question the integrity of the individual as it shows a complete disregard for rules. Drug use by soldiers in the business of defending our nation is a dangerous proposition. These soldiers train as they fight, with real ammunition in high-stress environments on minimal sleep patterns, spending days in harsh climate environments. They operate heavy equipment such as large trucks, tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and also fly advanced helicopters. Imagine soldiers consuming marijuana and then operating the above equipment. Before you say that marijuana is safe, think about those killed at the hands of drivers high on marijuana in Alabama alone. This bill would unnecessarily put the safety and security of our nation and our service members at increased risk.

Additionally, soldiers who choose to smoke marijuana and break the law typically have other significant issues that lead to dishonorable discharges for insubordination, conduct unbecoming and going AWOL.

Being a member of the armed forces requires following rules that individuals may disagree with, but ignoring rules altogether is unacceptable. Drug use can show a lack in discipline and good decision-making skills, something necessary for the success of our armed forces.

Additionally, drug use shows a lack of respect for the individual, their body, mind and health. If an individual is willing to put their own health and safety on the line, we would have no reason to believe they would not risk the health and safety of others.

Proponents of the Gaetz provision tout it as a remedy for our military personnel crisis. From their perspective, our country can increase the number of military recruits by removing marijuana use as a disqualifying factor. Despite military personnel issues being real, there are three glaring problems with the Gaetz and Rogers approach.

First, we should address the root issues of military personnel problems rather than settling to admit potheads. Re-analyzing military benefits, promoting patriotism, and creating a more positive national perception of the military will all increase enlistment. Additionally, young men and women do not enlist to train on proper pronoun use and sexual harassment of transgender soldiers; they enlist to fight for their country against enemies foreign and domestic. Enlistment is down because the system is broken. Allowing drug use is not the answer.

Second, banning marijuana testing would create more problems than it would solve. We know that drug use decreases military readiness, attentiveness, discipline, and judgment. Even if we were able to increase enlistment, we would risk admitting recruits that will not be ready to serve. Worse, mental health problems will continue to rise. Chronic marijuana use is linked to schizophrenia, psychoses (remember Chris Kyle’s murderer), substance abuse disorder and worsened PTSD. Allowing marijuana users into the military will also increase the overall healthcare burden.

In addition to the negative mental health consequences, chronic marijuana use precipitates the increased risks of heart attack, stroke and cancer, to name a few. These medical complications do not stop with the soldier. They impact the entire unit, as well as the soldier’s future family. All cannabis damages the sperm and egg, as well as the developing baby. Thus, Rogers’ move will have disastrous generational consequences.

Finally, banning marijuana testing altogether is an extreme response to a problem for which there is already a solution. Both the Air Force and Navy grant waivers on a case-by-case basis to recruits who test positive for marijuana. Most would agree that there might be unique circumstances where past drug use has an explanation and would not affect a soldier’s ability to serve. But these cases should be treated as special, and recruits granted waivers at the discretion of the military. Completely prohibiting marijuana testing removes a useful tool that the military should have during the recruitment process.

Thankfully, the battle is far from over. The Senate can push back against this misguided provision and strip it out of the NDAA. As veterans and Alabamians, we urge Congress to get rid of the dangerous Gaetz provision and for Rogers to explain to our state why he supports banning marijuana testing for military recruits. Let us honor our fallen soldiers this Memorial Day by keeping high the very standards that have made America great.

Signed by:

Major General Perry G. Smith, Army National Guard, retired
Major General Allen Harrell, Army National Guard, retired
Colonel Stewart Tankersly, Army National Guard, retired
Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Scott Jones, United States Army, retired
Commander Theresa Hubbard, United States Coast Guard Reserves, retired
MSgt Rex F. Chilton, United States Air Force, retired
TechSgt David Coram, United States Air Force, veteran

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to

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