Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz issued a general order Tuesday banning Coasties from entering any business that grows, distributes, sells or otherwise deals with marijuana.

Pot may be legal for various uses in 33 states, but it remains an illicit substance under federal law, and the service's new general order is designed to send a message to Coast Guard men and women that they should steer clear, officials said during a phone call with

Recognizing there has been "a shift in the social norms, especially because of the increased proliferation and availability of cannabis-based products," Schultz issued the new guidance to eliminate ambiguity, explained Cmdr. Matt Rooney, Policy and Standards Division chief at Coast Guard Headquarters.

"As a military organization, we have to be clear and direct to providing [guidance] to our members," Rooney said.

Crew members aboard Coast Guard Cutter Midgett offload an estimated 2,400 pounds of marijuana Nov. 16, 2015. Coast Guard crews, along with partner agencies, recovered the marijuana jettisoned from a panga vessel approximately 200 miles off the U.S. and Mexico border in international waters Nov. 5, 2015.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sondra-Kay Kneen)

According to Coast Guard-wide message ACN 079/19, the new general order applies to uniformed Coast Guard members and prohibits them from entering brick-and-mortar establishments and mobile dispensaries and using online or delivery services.

The new order is punitive, but since the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not contain specific language barring service members from such businesses, punishment would fall under failure to obey a lawful order, with a maximum punishment of two years confinement, total forfeiture of pay and allowances, reduction to E-1 and a dishonorable discharge, according to officials.

Rooney said no specific event or activities prompted the new order. Instead, it is an effort to "protect our members ... and is a condition of our employment to ensure we remain mission ready."

"The culture in certain parts of the nation is shifting around marijuana ... we want to be clear to the work force in providing our expectation that consumption of marijuana is still prohibited," he said.

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