Civilian Busted for Trying to Bring Nearly an Ounce of Weed into the Pentagon

The person must have been high. The Pentagon’s police force conducted a dragnet last month for employees entering the building. They found a number of unauthorized items and at least one illegal one, allegedly: 25 grams of marijuana, close to an ounce, on an Army civilian just trying to enter the building to get to ...

Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The person must have been high.

The Pentagon's police force conducted a dragnet last month for employees entering the building. They found a number of unauthorized items and at least one illegal one, allegedly: 25 grams of marijuana, close to an ounce, on an Army civilian just trying to enter the building to get to work.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency on Nov. 19 conducted what it called an "enhanced screening" of all the Pentagon's employees at three of the building's major entrances as part of a routine security check. Pentagon police found four "prohibited" knives, pepper spray and what was only described as "drug paraphernalia." In other such screenings, they have found employees with "expandable batons," a defense official said.

The person must have been high.

The Pentagon’s police force conducted a dragnet last month for employees entering the building. They found a number of unauthorized items and at least one illegal one, allegedly: 25 grams of marijuana, close to an ounce, on an Army civilian just trying to enter the building to get to work.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency on Nov. 19 conducted what it called an "enhanced screening" of all the Pentagon’s employees at three of the building’s major entrances as part of a routine security check. Pentagon police found four "prohibited" knives, pepper spray and what was only described as "drug paraphernalia." In other such screenings, they have found employees with "expandable batons," a defense official said.

But police also found an unnamed individual who allegedly was holding at least 25 grams of marijuana, just shy of an ounce. Despite the fact that possession of an illegal substance like marijuana is prohibited at the Pentagon and there were no clear national security issues at play, officials declined to provide any further details of the case. A Pentagon official cited the Privacy Act of 1974 which defense officials interpret as preventing the Defense Department from having to disclose the age or name of the person charged. Nor would defense officials comment on the amount of marijuana allegedly found. But a source familiar with the matter indicated that the amount was 25 grams or more.

Officials would only say that individuals who bring controlled substances into the building are subject to criminal prosecution and to penalties imposed by federal law for the commission of a Class B misdemeanor offense.

Typically, someone possessing drugs or a gun would be prosecuted through the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District Court of Virginia. But a check of the "Pentagon docket" there did not contain any hearings for recent possession charges.

Why anyone would bring that much marijuana into the Pentagon is anyone’s guess. 25 grams would be considered by most people to be more than what an average marijuana user might consume for personal use. And that could open the door to the individual being prosecuted for possession with an intent to distribute. In some cases, that much could be considered a felony charge.

Under Pentagon screening rules, however, an individual can refuse to have their bags and person checked and simply not be admitted into the building. It’s possible that the individual in question simply forgot they had a container of marijuana on their person. According to the crowd-sourcing Web site Price of Weed, an ounce of high-quality marijuana in the Washington, D.C. area could be worth as much as $400.

(The site also rates enforcement and social acceptance of marijuana. Virginia gets four "bags" for enforcement and three for social acceptance, with one bag meaning "accepting" and five "highly intolerant.)"

If a Pentagon employee is found to have an unauthorized weapon like pepper spray, prohibited under "Title 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Conduct on the Pentagon Reservation," he or she can be fined as much as $1,000 and the item can be confiscated.

Such screenings have become more commonplace at the Pentagon. Officials said that the one Nov. 19 was not conducted because of any specific security threat but as a matter of routine. But the Pentagon police force also checks some bags as Pentagon employees exit the building, potentially checking for stolen items or classified documents. If narcotics have been found on these checks, defense officials have kept that information to themselves.

Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children. Twitter: @glubold

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