Flying High? The Air Force Allowed Dozens Of Stoners To Enlist

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The Air Force has allowed at least 43 recruits who tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, to enlist after a second test since September as part of a new program to boost recruitment, reported.

The Air Force rolled out a pilot program in October permitting potential recruits who show signs of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their bloodstream a chance to wait and retest, according to a news release. Air Force planners initially projected a total of 50 recruits to enter under the program throughout fiscal year 2023, which began in October, but between Sept. 30 and Dec. 31, 2022 — just three months into the program — recruits have nearly met the total estimate, recruiting officials told

The results “could mean as more states adopt more leniency toward cannabis and THC derivatives, we anticipate a continued increase” in waiver requests, Air Force Recruiting Service spokeswoman Chrissy Cuttita told in an email. (RELATED: Here’s How The Military Dropped Its Standards In 2022 To Address A Major Recruiting Crisis)

The Air Force granted 43 waivers to recruits who tested positive for THC, allowing them a chance to retest at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) after 90 days, according to Prior to the program’s implementation, potential recruits could be permanently barred from entry into the Air Force or Space Force.

“The pilot program is in accordance with existing DoD policy and builds upon lessons learned from the Army and Navy who have already fielded similar pilot programs,” the Air Force said in the Sept. 28 news release.

Officially, federal employees are still not allowed to take in marijuana products along with other so-called Schedule 1 drugs, such as ecstasy, heroin or methamphetamines, according to However, as the number of states legalizing marijuana has grown over recent years, the military has become more lenient toward marijuana.

“What we’re seeing is that the number of states that have legalized marijuana either for medicinal use or recreational use has been rising since about 2000-2001,” Beth J. Asch, a researcher at Rand Corps who has studied marijuana waivers, told “Not surprisingly, as more states are doing this, the number of people who are coming from states or potentially coming from states with legalized marijuana has increased.”

The new program comes as the U.S. is struggling to find enough willing recruits who meet physical and intellectual requirements to join. Army recruiting plummeted in 2022, while the other services just made their recruiting goals for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, according to Department of Defense (DOD) data shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The military is scrambling to adjust policies in a way that attracts more recruits, prompting some lowering of physical fitness and academic standards that could negatively impact military readiness, Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, previously told the DCNF.

A recent Rand study found that Army recruits with a history of marijuana use did not demonstrate a notable difference in performance. The Army and Navy have implemented similar programs to that introduced in the Air Force, reported.

The Air Force did not immediately respnd to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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