By Tom Roeder
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In more than two weeks of legal recreational marijuana in Colorado, Army recruiters aren't reporting an influx of stoned recruits.
And the Army's top recruiter on Friday in Colorado Springs made a point of saying that experimental pot use, while illegal under federal laws, doesn't permanently prevent military service.
Keep smoking pot, or test positive on the Army's drug test for recruits, tough, and what's legal in Colorado will stop you from getting a green uniform.
"We don't tolerate it," Maj. Gen. Allen Batschelet told a luncheon crowd of local military boosters with the Colorado 30 Group.
Legalized pot has led to cries of concern from Colorado politicians including U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach who are worried the drug, still illegal under federal law, could adversely affect the state's six military bases.
Bach, calling the statewide legalization vote "regrettable," spoke before Batschelet and touted his efforts to block recreation marijuana sales in Colorado Springs and the recent ban on marijuana at the Colorado Springs Airport, "As mayor of the city I will stand tall to make sure it won't become a bigger issue," Bach said.
Marijauna along with other drugs remains illegal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Troops around the world are regularly tested for drug use and can be charged with a crime for a positive result.
For recruits, though, the rules are different. Marijuana use prior to military service will judged based on whether it was habitual or signified dependency.
Batschelet said recruits are asked about drug use as part of a background check.
"We'd prefer you to be forthcoming," he said.
One-time use accompanied by a pledge to never use marijuana will generally pose few problems for recruits.
Frequent use could be deemed habitual and bar military service.
Batschelet, who is working to put 57,000 recruits into uniform before September, said while drug use is a concern, a generation of flabby teenagers could be a bigger worry.
He said of 25 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 — the prime recruiting years — 20 million my be ineligible for service. A third of those can meet physical qualifications, a third don't meet academic standards and a third don't meet moral standards because of past crimes or drug use.
Of the pool of potential recruits left, about 5 million, the Army is trying to entice them with fewer tools in the wake of Pentagon belt-tightening.
A few years ago, as war raged in Iraq and Afghanistan, bonuses topping $10,000 awaited recruits.
Another tool that was frequently used during the war — waivers of recruiting standards — are drying up, too. That comes as the Army aims to cut 80,000 soldiers from its roster through 2015.
"As the Army shrinks, that focus on quality increases," Batschelet said.
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