Analysis of the important role of marijuana among the troops of the United States, from the Vietnam War, through Iraq, to the present
Although alcohol has always been the drug preferred by American troops since its creation, marijuana became the second most consumed substance by the US military during the Vietnam War (1955-1975). Curiously, it was consumed more in those times, despite being illegal, than at present. But let’s look at all the circumstances that have surrounded this phenomenon for more than five decades.
Undoubtedly, the fact that the Vietnam conflict coincided with the heyday of the hippie era, a social phenomenon born among young people in the United States and quickly exported to the rest of the Western world, had a lot to do with marijuana being the second most used recreational substance by the non-professional army of the United States of America.
Indeed, the last decade of the sixties and part of the seventies, rock and roll and marijuana were an essential part of popular culture. Of course, other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, were also consumed. But like today, they were substances consumed by a marginal minority that, fortunately, did not represent any social or cultural group.
It is very important to bear in mind that in the Vietnam War, soldiers were forced. They were forced into a warlike conflict that they did not understand and with which they did not feel identified. All the circumstances were ideal for those young people to try to make the time spent in that hell as bad as possible.
The marijuana, always sativas varieties of great power that came from Thailand and other neighboring countries, was very cheap and, in addition, part of the culture that they had to live. In the midst of war, radio was the only way to feel closer to their homes. Each channel they tuned gave them the best songs of the time. One day, an American soldier of 20 years who was forced to wage war in Vietnam, listened to the great hits of the moment. And almost all of those great hits were, in one way or another, an apology for marijuana. Recall some hits of the time.
The Beatles, of whom it is said that if all the grass that had been smoked got together, could be fed to a whole range of Texas cows.
Jimi Hendrix and his mythical song “Purple Haze“
The Allman Brothers, with songs like “Midnight River”
Pink Floyd, with songs like Time, from the album “The dark side of the moon”, which they themselves claimed had to be smoked to enjoy it to the fullest.
Bob Dylan, and his delicious song “Rainy Day Woman”, which is also a tribute to marijuana.
Black Sabbath. Does anyone remember his already legendary song “Sweet Leaf”?
Tom Petty, with songs as “cannabic” as his “You Do not Know How It Feels”
Led Zeppelin, British group with such hippy themes and “cannabic” as “Going to California”
The doors, whose name made reference to the doors of the perception that marijuana opens up for you. His theme “Light my fire” is more than significant.
And finally I leave Grateful Death, a group that with themes like “Dark Star” contributed to the creation of the term 420, as a reference for marijuana.
I could continue writing pages about it. But it is enough to understand the environment of the average American soldier who, forced, was displaced thousands of miles from home, and every time he turned on the radio, he listened to rock and roll, in constant reference to marijuana, a substance very cheap and affordable for those young people.
It is curious that many of the American soldiers in Vietnam smoked marijuana for the first time in that country. Only 8% had smoked it before. In the year 1967 only 29% of the soldiers sent claimed to have smoked marijuana. But in 1971 the number had risen to 34%.
But American soldiers smoked marijuana everywhere, not just in Vietnam. In the year 1971 a prestigious magazine published an article in which it affirmed that more than 1,000 midshipmen of the Naval Academy of Annapolis (in the USA) smoked marijuana. And at the same time, half of the soldiers stationed in Germany smoked cannabis daily.
Cannabis was a great help to those soldiers whose lives were hell. The propaganda had told them that their mission was to stop the expansion of communism in the world. But the youth culture they lived on a daily basis was the culture of peace and freedom. And marijuana was their way to feel that existence.
There were many soldiers who opposed the war and who hated the army. Marijuana helped them to better connect with their comrades in arms and was a vehicle that opened them to difficult conversations, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) or their anti-war viewpoint.
Therefore, marijuana became a kind of anti-war slogan. For the first time in the history of the United States, at the end of 1969, 37% of the soldiers declared themselves anti-war in Vietnam.
The Department of Defense of the United States realized that marijuana was a substance that produced a peaceful feeling among consumers. Therefore, he did the impossible to eradicate the substance. Interestingly, the same Department of Defense did not pay attention to the consumption of other drugs, such as heroin or amphetamines, since they did not have that pacifying effect among American soldiers.
On July 4, 1971, more than a thousand veteran soldiers demonstrated on Chu Lai Beach to protest the war. Most had a joint and smoked marijuana while listening to the musicians who participated in the gathering: Hendrix, Dylan, the Stones and many more. It has been considered as the most important cannabis celebration in history.
Although smoking marijuana was prohibited in the United States army, soldiers continued to consume. Although the army never showed its statistics, it is believed that more of the soldiers stationed in Vietnam smoked marijuana daily. In fact, at that time there were more Americans who smoked marijuana in Vietnam than in the United States.
The government of South Vietnam, with its capital in Saigon, reacted with fury when it learned of the matter and implemented a series of measures to make access to marijuana more difficult. But the remedy was worse than the problem because heroin began to enter the American troops.
Do you remember the Oliver Stone movie called “Platoon”? In this masterpiece of cinema there is a scene in which the soldier called Vito, takes a shotgun, filled it with marijuana and the whole bunch starts smoking. The scene is based on reality. Oliver Stone was a soldier in the Vietnam War and was part of that platoon.
We must not forget that those soldiers who went to the Vietnam War were forced by the government. And besides, marijuana was illegal at that time. But what happens with the Marines today? Are they allowed to use marijuana?
The reality is that marijuana is still not legal at the federal level in the United States. Therefore, the army cannot allow its use. It is difficult to understand since many states have legalized their medicinal and / or recreational use.
The states that have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana have made a list of diseases that can be treated with cannabis. The diseases are:
ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Traumatic brain injury (TMI)
Can you enter the American army using medical marijuana?
The answer is NO.
Although many states have legalized marijuana, the federal government considers it an illegal substance. Therefore, if you are a soldier in the United States Army and are caught using marijuana or simply in possession of it, you can be arrested and even put in federal prison.
But, in addition, cannabis is a substance that does not produce aggressiveness, rather the opposite. In some countries, riot police drink large amounts of alcohol before an intervention, because the alcohol is a drug that causes aggressiveness. A soldier who fights in a war must always be in combat mode.
Questions that are asked to candidates to join the American army
“Have you ever been psychologically or physically dependent upon any drug or alcohol?”
“Have you ever used drugs?”
You do not have to be addicted to any drug. If you have tried them, it is reason enough to deny you entry into the United States Army.
American soldiers cannot be treated with marijuana, neither medicinal nor recreational, because of federal laws. No exceptions are allowed and, unfortunately, many soldiers have to resort to very addictive and dangerous “legal” drugs.
Former Marines who returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are using medical marijuana to treat their physical and mental disorders. Chronic pain, post-traumatic stress syndrome and other disorders are being cured with medical marijuana.
But they had to leave the army to access medical marijuana. Because those marines who continue being part of the United States Army are being treated with very addictive, though legal, opioids.
These legal opiates have killed more than 40000 Americans a year as a result of overdoses. These legal opiates have killed more than 40,000 Americans a year as a result of overdoses. Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have become addicted to opiates at a rate higher than twice the average of other citizens.
However, at the moment it does not seem possible that the soldiers of the first military force in the world will have legal access to marijuana.