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State Marijuana Legalization


States within the Navy's Mid-Atlantic region that have legalized the possession and recreational use of marijuana – Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia – contradict Federal law, which still applies on DoD facilities and to military and civilian personnel – even those who are state residents.

Marijuana remains illegal under Federal law and service members remain subject to the UCMJ. Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug as part of The Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Although the states have legalized marijuana, it is still prohibited on installations by service members, retirees, family members, and contractors. The Uniformed Code of Military Justice continues to apply to military personnel. The UCMJ continues to criminalize service members' wrongful use, possession, and distribution of marijuana.  Federal criminal law continues to criminalize the possession or distribution of marijuana.  21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 844.

DoD policy continues to apply to DoD Civilian Employees. Civilian employees are governed by DoD Instruction (DoDI) 1010.09, and are subject to a full range of disciplinary actions including reprimand, enforced leave, suspension and/or removal from service.


UCMJ Violation in Regards to Possession:

Pursuant to Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), anyone who wrongfully uses, possesses, manufactures, distributes, imports into the customs territory of the United States, exports from the United States, or introduces into an installation, vessel, vehicle, or aircraft used by or under the control of the armed forces a substance described in subsection (b) shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What would happen if a service member was caught possessing or using marijuana? Civilians?

  1. Servicemembers caught possessing/using marijuana are subject to adjudication under the UCMJ, which applies at all places and at all times.  In addition, they are subject to administrative action, including ADSEP. 
  2. DoN CIVs caught using/possessing marijuana in the federal workplace may be subject to disciplinary action under Dept. of Navy Human Resources “drug free workplace” guidelines.


Q2. If a service member is caught with possession of marijuana on base will they be held accountable under UCMJ or federal law? Civilians?

  1. UCMJ is also federal law.  A Servicemember who is caught possessing marijuana on base may be subject to prosecution either by their Commanding Officer (under the UCMJ) or by the Special Assistant for U.S. Attorney (federal law).  Either one or other, but not both, may be pursued. 
  2. Possession of marijuana in any amount remains illegal under federal law.  Any civilian, caught possessing marijuana on base may be subject to prosecution under federal law by the Special Assistant for U.S. Attorney. 


Q3. If federal law, will military police be working closely with local police if this problem arises?

  1. On the federal level, Military Police may issue a citation that refers illegal possession of marijuana incidents to a federal Special Assistant for US Attorney (Part of the Dept. of Justice).   These cases are prosecuted in federal court.
  2. On a state/local level, depending on jurisdiction, Navy Military Police maintain MOUs with local law enforcement and certain state authorities (e.g. county sheriff).  While Military Police are prohibited from charging state or local penal code violations, Military Police may (at their discretion) invite state/local law enforcement to come onboard the military installation to enforce state/local criminal law. 


Q4. If caught in possession, will the service member be held accountable through non-judicial punishment, or court-martial proceedings?

Whether a Servicemember’s alleged violation of the UCMJ is referred to NJP or court-martial for adjudication is a matter solely within the Servicemember’s Commanding Officer (CO).  The member’s CO has personal jurisdiction and is the “Disposition Authority” for an alleged violation of Article 112a of the UCMJ.  There is no legal requirement to refer marijuana possession to court-martial or other criminal proceedings, and Servicemembers assigned to shore command retain all their rights under the law (including the right to refuse NJP, if attached to a shore-based command). 


Q5. What is the maximum penalty for marijuana use or possession under the UCMJ?

This depends on both quantity of possession, as well as the court-martial forum in which the charges are referred – NJP, or Summary, Special, or General Court Martial. 


Q6. Can DoD civilians in Non-Testing Designated Positions use marijuana?

No. The possession or use of marijuana by civilians on a DoD installation is prohibited as an illegal drug.


Q7. Is there an executive order that outlines if DoD civilians are allowed to utilize marijuana?

Yes.  There is an EO which prohibits Federal employees from the possession or use of illegal drugs (such as Marijuana) whether on duty or off duty.  See, DoDI 1010.09


Q8. Can dependents of service members use marijuana?

  1. Depends: Age, location, and medical status (i.e. prescription?). 
  2. Military dependents who reside onboard a military installation are prohibited from possessing marijuana. 
  3. Possession or use of marijuana is prohibited in PPV housing, whether on or off the military installation.


Q9. Can military police stop and search my vehicle or person at any time for any reason whether they have probable cause or not? 

  1. Privacy interests of both persons and things are limited while entering, and while onboard, a restricted access military installation. 
  2. Driving onboard a military installation is a privilege, not a right.



Search of Vehicle

Search of Person


At entry to installation

All vehicles entering a restricted military installation implicitly consent to inspection/search at the gate. 


All persons entering a restricted military installation implicitly consent to inspection/search, as well as ID.

Just driving or walking on base

Pursuant to Force Protection and anti-terrorism measures, Private Vehicles may be randomly stopped and asked for ID.


Pursuant to Force Protection and anti-terrorism measures, Private Vehicles may be randomly stopped and asked for ID.


Reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, or a violation of a traffic regulation, or the installation commander’s policy. OPNAV 11200.5D

Private vehicles may be searched where there is a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, or a violation of a traffic regulation, or the installation commander’s policy. OPNAV 11200.5D

Persons, vehicles, trunk, personal belongings, may be searched where there is a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, or a violation of a traffic regulation, or the installation commander’s policy. OPNAV 11200.5D



Q10. Can visitors come onto base with marijuana in their vehicles as long as they don’t use it while on base?

No. Installations are governed by federal law / policies, and while marijuana may be legal under state statue, it is still prohibited federally and therefore not authorized to induce on an installation. A good parallel example would be the preclusion of firearms.


Q11. Can contractors be banned from base for possession of marijuana?



Q12. If an illegal substance were to be found in a vehicle (however it was found), what do we do with the individual, the vehicle, and the substance?

Whenever an illegal substance (Marijuana or other) is found and can be linked or attributed to an individual, the individual will be issued a federal magistrate citation (DD Form 1805 - United States District Court Violation Notice) in accordance with rules governing the nature of the infraction.  The illegal (substance) contraband will be confiscated as evidence, and the vehicle may or may not be impounded if it is determined to be of evidentiary value or not.


Note: if the illegal substance is also illegal under state statutory law, then the case may be turn over to local police for processing and or final disposition in accordance with local protocols.


Q13. Will service members be held responsible for a dependent being caught in possession of marijuana on base?

Servicemembers may be held accountable for the conduct of their dependents. 


Q14. Can military police search on base PPV housing at any time for any reason whether they have probable cause or not?

No.  Probable Cause is needed. 

  1. If PPV is on base, then there must be probable cause and a search authorization by the installation CO to search the home.  Consult with your installation SJA.
  2. If the PPV is off base, then there must be probable cause AND a search authorization by a judge with jurisdiction. 


Q15. Is privatized housing considered federal property?

  1. Depends, but generally no it is not considered exclusive federal property.  Instead, it is considered private property subject to both state and federal laws (depending on how the property is held) and controlled by both private and US Government interests. 
  2. As private property, the Landlord can require its Tenants to abide by certain laws, rules, regulations, standards, and community guidelines including prohibiting possession/use of marijuana (or any substance prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act) on the premises. 


Q16. For families that live in off-base PPV housing, can dependents use marijuana in the residence?

No. It would be a violation of their lease and Federal Law.


Q17. Can dependents grow marijuana plants in off-base PPV housing?

No. It would be a violation of their lease and Federal Law.


Q18. Can a service member live in a residence where other occupants are using and/or growing marijuana?

Yes, but not recommended.  If the Servicemember lives off base and outside of 


Q19. Can DoD civilians who are residents of Virginia grow marijuana?

When Virginia's new marijuana laws go into effect on July 1, it will become legal for adults 21+ to carry up to an ounce of marijuana. It will also become legal to grow up to four marijuana plants (per household) in Virginia. However, it will remain illegal to buy or sell seeds with which to grow the plant.


Q20. If recreational use of marijuana is legal in Virginia, would it be okay for a DoD civilian that is a Virginia state resident to say in a personnel investigation that they have not used illegal substances?

DoD Civilians are subject to DoD Drug Free Workplace guidelines, which prohibits the use of marijuana even off-duty.  “Illegal substances” includes marijuana, even though it is legal for recreational use under state law. 


Q21. Would a service member lose their security clearance if caught possessing or using marijuana? DoD civilian?

Very likely, yes.  A charge for violation of federal law – including possession of any amount of marijuana – is a security concern that must be disclosed to your Security Manager and could result in loss of security clearance. See, DoDM 5200.02, App. 7B. 


Q22. Upon departure from active duty, does a member of the ready reserve still fall under UCMJ guidelines with marijuana use?

  1. Yes.  Per Article 2 of the UCMJ, persons subject to the UCMJ include members of the Fleet Reserve and Fleet Marine Corps Reserve, as well as Retired members of the regular component of the Armed Forces. 
  2. However, whether the Armed Forces will prosecute these inactive members for violation of Article 112a UCMJ (Possession/Use of Marijuana) is a separate matter. 


Q23. At what point can an active duty member leaving the service legally use or possess marijuana where it wouldn’t impact their HYT or retirement benefits as it applies to the UCMJ?

Never, because Active Duty members are subject to the UCMJ at all places and times.  Retirees are also subject to the UCMJ, per Article 2. 

However, whether the Armed Forces will prosecute these inactive members for violation of Article 112a UCMJ (Possession/Use of Marijuana) is a separate matter. 


Q24. Can Sailors use CBD oil products?

No.  See, ALNAV 074-20.


Q25. Can Sailors possess CBD pet products?

Yes, but not recommended since there could be risk of accidental introduction of CBD into the body (either topically or otherwise). 


Q26. Is marijuana possession or use really a problem in the Navy? Is it a growing problem or declining problem?

Yes.  It is a growing problem especially in vaping products. 



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