Random Tests Show Marijuana Drug of Choice in Canadian Military

Marijuana is the illegal drug of choice in the Canadian Forces, according to the first random tests of the entire military.

Almost one in 20 Forces members – 4.7 per cent – “recently” used illicit drugs, says the newly released study based on random urine samples.

And the vast majority were using some form of cannabis, with cocaine, morphine and codeine far behind.

The survey results are based on 1,327 mandatory urine samples taken randomly, without prior notice, among all three services and across the country. Refusal to provide a urine sample could result in disciplinary action.

Previous illicit-drug surveys in the Canadian Forces had concentrated on smaller populations in one of the branches, or among key military professionals such as submariners or divers.

But to establish a broad baseline, the Canadian Forces carried out its widest survey yet, between Feb. 2 and April 6, 2009. Mandatory urine samples were demanded “at unpredictable times and without prior notice.”

However, the samples were “blind” in that the identity of the individual tested was not recorded, and therefore no sanctions could be applied to anyone testing positive.

The anonymous samples were sent to an independent lab hired by the military, and an analysis of the results was completed in January. A copy of the analysis was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

Marijuana can be detected in the urine weeks after use, depending on how much is ingested and how frequently it has been taken. The tests showed that about four per cent of those tested had traces of cannabis in their samples.

In Canada, some surveys have found up to 12 per cent of the general population acknowledging use of illicit drugs, with marijuana by far the most popular.

The military has previously estimated usage in its ranks at about four per cent, and mandatory tests imposed in 2006 on soldiers headed to Afghanistan have helped hold levels in check. The Canadian Forces have a zero-tolerance policy for illicit drugs.

The new survey results found that military drug users generally are males age 39 years or younger; are in lower ranks; have not completed a university or college degree; and are in common-law relationships or have never been married.

“The BDT (blind drug testing) results indicate that for CF full-time members, gender, age, rank and highest level of education are strong predictors of illicit drug use,” says the report.

The authors call for more in-depth study of the findings, and more detailed breakdowns of the demographics of illegal drug use.

“The CF are a microcosm of the Canadian population at large, and as such, it is reasonable to expect that a small percentage of CF members will, at one time or another use illegal drugs,” spokeswoman Carole Brown said Wednesday.

“It is too early to comment on possible policy changes, as the research results of the pan-CF drug testing have not yet been finalized, and recommendations are still being developed.”

The study identified Canadian Forces Base Borden in Ontario as a hot spot for street-drug use, with about nine per cent of individuals testing positive.

The base is the largest training facility in the Canadian Forces, with an average of 15,000 personnel passing through each year. Brown said military recruiters attempt to screen applicants for drug use, and will deem them “temporarily unsuitable” if substance abuse is recent or continuing.

The navy bases at Esquimalt, B.C., and Halifax also showed somewhat higher-than-average drug use in the study, at 5.5 per cent each. The large military facility at St-Jean, Que., had a 5.6 per cent rate.

Previous blind tests that were restricted the army and the navy found levels of illicit drug use at five per cent and 6.5 per cent respectively.

Brown said while the Canadian Forces does not tolerate illicit drug use, it also regards substance abuse as a health issue to be handled through education, treatment and rehabilitation and not solely through disciplinary measures.

– Article from The Canadian Press.



  1. Bob on

    The CF used to test very rarely. They do three types of Testing.

    1) Testing for cause. This is done when warning signs are present and the chain of command has reasonable suspicion. It can result in Administrative and disciplinary action.

    2) Security sensitive screening (ex deployment) This is done for certain jobs and all deployments. It can result in administrative action only, and does not allow for Disciplinary action.

    3) Blind testing. This is anonymous and is done for statistical purposes only.

    The one problem with the recent increase in testing Forces wide is that it has pushed soldiers away from their more traditional cannabis use, and more and more are using harder drugs like cocaine. The result is that soldiers using marijuana are caught, and the soldiers using harder drugs are slipping through the cracks. This is due to the fact that drugs such as cocaine leave the system very quickly. If a soldier does coke Friday night then he/she will be safe for a drug test on Monday. If a soldier smokes a joint on Friday night then he/she could be picked up for drug use several weeks down the line. I believe that cocaine and ecstasy are now the most popular illicit drugs used our soldiers.

  2. Anonymous on

    not very often though, my buddy who’s an artillery gunner has been in the forces for 2 1/2 years and hes only been tested once. If youre going overseas, whether it’s for peacekeeping or to fight in afghanistan, you will surely be tested. They used to mandatory testing for new recruits, but since afghanistan, they’ve cut drug testing upon recruitment due to lack of funds.

    I personally enlisted in the Canadian Forces….last July, and I am STILL going through the entry process myself.

    Anyone who thinks joining the Canadian military is like buying a used car is SORRILY mistaken. The last 8 months of my life have been a bureaucratic hell. The recruitment process itself is like a part-time job.

  3. Anonymous on

    They way it sounds is that Canadian Armed forces dont get random drug tests while serving, they said this is the first random testing ever for Canadian military, is this true? I was in the U.S. Army and they obviously tested us all the time, any Canadian soldiers care to comment? I’m intrigued.

  4. BuffaloBill on

    So they say. I read all about it in USA Today.

  5. Paul Goodman on

    If the P.M.’s not going to legalize, he should at least read the last paragraph.

  6. CanadianLiberty on

    I’ve got some good buddies in the Forces, one of whom has been to Afghanistan.

    He was telling me that in Afghanistan, his regiment (He’s an electrician and construction engineering troop) had vaccinated some livestock and built a bridge near a farming village.

    A few of the farmers, as a thank you gesture, offered them some of their marijuana crop!

    They test the guys BEFORE they go over there, hahaha but when they come back a LOT of the younger guys definitely got some THC running through their veins!