DOD Secretary Tells Tech Experts: 'We Can Be Flexible' on Marijuana Use

By Susan Jones | September 14, 2016 | 11:09am EDT
Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the "TechCrunch Disrupt 2016" innovation and technology conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (DoD Photo)

( - Defense Secretary Ash Carter went to Silicon Valley on Tuesday as part of his ongoing effort to "build bridges" between the military and technology experts.

"The reason I'm here, and the reason why I'm grateful you're having me here is to -- that I hope many of you in the audience...will find a way to connect to us. We're open-minded, open-eared. We need the help, we know that. And we're willing to meet you halfway."

Carter said he wants the Defense Department to "interact with people in a way that's sort of more user-friendly."

What about drugs, someone asked him: "In order to recruit the best engineers in the world right now, you need to be a bit flexible. Let's say somebody went to Burning Man two weeks ago and partaked in some goodies; are they still eligible?"

"It depends on what the goodies are," Carter replied. "But, no, well it's a very good question, and we're changing that in recognition of the fact that time's changing generations. Changing -- by the way -- laws change as respecting marijuana and so forth.

"And that in many other ways, we need to -- while protecting ourselves and doing the appropriate things to make sure that it's safe to entrust information with people -- we need to understand, and we do, the way people are -- have -- lives have changed. Not hold against them things that they've done when they were younger.

"And so it's an important question, and the answer is yes, we can be flexible in that regard. And we need to."

Although the questioner seemed to be asking about recent drug use, Carter was talking about past drug use, when people were "younger."

According to the Defense Department, "Drug use is incompatible with DoD military and public service. The abuse of illicit drugs can impair performance, and negatively impact readiness in the hazardous conditions unique to the military work environment. Illicit drug abuse has the potential to compromise National interests when individuals in security sensitive positions abuse drugs."

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