Just Say No: Easy answer to marijuana use question for military members

  • Published
  • By Major Simone V. Davis
  • U.S. Air Force Warfare Center Judge Advocate Office

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. - On Jan. 1, 2017, recreational use of marijuana will become legal in Nevada.


Does that mean you, a military member stationed at or temporary duty to Nellis (or Creech) Air Force Base, Nevada, will be able to light up? Not so fast! Marijuana use is and will be continue to be a crime under military law.


The fact that Nevada and several other states have legalized recreational use of marijuana has no effect on your military obligations. Under Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, it is a crime to use, possess, or distribute any amount of an illegal drug, including marijuana. 


Illegal drug use is incompatible with military service and if found guilty, at best, you will be immediately discharged from the military with a General or Under Other than Honorable service characterization.


With that, you could lose all of your VA benefits, including the G.I. Bill, commissary and Base Exchange privileges, medical and dental care, home loan benefits and veterans and retirement credit should you apply for a federal government job in the future.


If you aren’t lucky enough to be administratively discharged, you will be court-martialed, where you’ll face a federal conviction, confinement, loss of pay and a possible dishonorable discharge. And as with an administrative separation, you could lose all of your veterans benefits.


But it doesn’t end there. In addition to the UCMJ, the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 – a federal law – also criminalizes marijuana use, possession and distribution.  Because military installations are federal property, any family member or civilian guest found possessing or using marijuana on base, will be kicked off the installation and become subject to federal prosecution. For their actions, you could be prosecuted under the UCMJ.


The bottom line: Marijuana will remain illegal for military members regardless of contrary state laws. Lighting up isn’t worth all of the things you stand to lose.


If you have further questions about Nevada’s new marijuana law and how it affects military members, please contact the Military Justice organizational box at