Remember the 1980s, when life was simple and Nancy Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ was the only way to go? Generation Z is giving those old school sentiments on drug use a run for their money. Olympic sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson lost her shot at competing in the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for marijuana. While marijuana isn’t known to enhance performance, it is a banned substance according to the World Anti-Doping Agency. It’s again shining a spotlight on Gen Z’s changing attitudes toward marijuana use, and has gotten commentary from a variety of folks speaking out and saying it’s time to consider changing the policy on marijuana use – particularly as more states legalize the drug.

Task & Purpose also called on the U.S. military to loosen its marijuana rules in a post aptly asking the DoD to ‘burn down’ its zero tolerance policy on weed.

Olympic Athletes, Service Members & Security Clearance Holders

The drastic increase in states legalizing recreational drug use has made marijuana use an ongoing issue for security clearance applicants and service members. Now Olympic athletes are added to that list. Richardson noted she used the drug in Oregon, where it was legal, as a method of coping with her mother’s death.

There’s debate as to whether or not marijuana is a performance enhancing drug or is banned due to a perception it goes against the ‘spirit of the sport. There is no conclusive data, in large part because the studies that are out there note the drug affects different people in different ways. Despite public backlash and other athletes coming to Richardson’s defense, the Olympic committee has doubled down on the ban and keeping Richardson from competing.

The military ban on recreational drug use comes with Uniform Code of Military Justice implications for violators. The Task and Purpose article calls for more nuance to the military’s drug rules, with stipulations related to frequency. The reality is that a single use of marijuana – frequently discovered through a random drug test – generally results in automatic separation from military service. In contrast, alcohol related offenses occur more frequently and typically with less significant repercussions, the article notes.

Security clearance holders fall into a similar extreme – use of drug use while holding a security clearance will almost assuredly result in a clearance revocation, and loss of employment in many instances. While Gen Z’s higher propensity for drug use has started to change long-held recommendations about length of abstinence before applying for a security clearance, doing drugs with a clearance remains a hard no-go. For that to change, something significant has to give – either the federal government’s drug ban, or the adjudicative guidelines around drug use.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.