How Marijuana Use Aborted Jared Loughner's Military Career

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Jared L. Loughner's high school yearbook photo

Around Christmas in 2008, Jared Lee Loughner, who had just turned 20, found himself on North 1st Street in Phoenix, more than 100 miles (160 km) from his home in Tucson, Ariz. He was several hundred yards north of US Airways Center, the "Purple Palace" that is home to the NBA's Phoenix Suns. Loughner was standing before one of the Pentagon's 65 Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS), where would-be recruits show up for tests and screenings designed to determine if they're right for the U.S. military. He walked into the MEPS and prepared for a daylong series of questions, tests and paperwork.

The trip to MEPS appears to have been at least the third trip Loughner made to military facilities over a three-month period in late 2008. He would have visited a recruiter in the Tucson area — maybe more than once — before indicating his desire to enlist, and then taken the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a 90-minute test that measures language and math skills. It ensures that the test taker is smart enough to sign up, and it pinpoints his or her strengths, which can help in choosing military jobs. Once Loughner passed that test, Army officials say, he was sent on to the MEPS in Phoenix.

But instead of marking the beginning of Private Loughner's military career, the visit to the processing station quickly aborted it, ending abruptly at Question 17i on DD Form 2807-1. That question — part of the medical history required by the military before someone is allowed to enlist — asked if Loughner had ever "used illegal drugs or abused prescription drugs." An Army official says Loughner admitted he was a regular marijuana user. With that, the official says, the young man's military career went up in smoke.

Army officials say Loughner's recruiter probably asked some questions to determine if he used marijuana but note that formal questioning occurs only at the processing station. "There would be some informal questions by the recruiter," an official says. "But the formal paperwork that's developed as part of the enlistment processing is much more detailed and much more in-depth, and that's conducted by the personnel at the Military Entrance Processing Command."

Indeed, Army officials say Loughner passed a urinalysis designed to detect drug use. "He didn't fail a drug test — he admitted to excessive drug use," an Army official says. The confession was so clear that the military had no choice. "He admitted that he smoked marijuana to such an extent that we said, 'No, thank you.' We're not going to accept a habitual drug abuser into the Army." "It's bizarre," another official says. "I certainly wouldn't go through the whole process only to say, 'Hey, I've been smoking marijuana for the past couple of years.' "

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