In a big step for the military to join the 21st century in late September, the Air Force and Space Force announced a new pilot program that would grant certain applicants who test positive for THC, the main psychoactive component in marijuana, a chance to retest and possibly join the ranks. Between 30 September – 31 December 2022 — the Air Force Recruiting Service granted waivers to 43 applicants who tested positive for THC. This was a larger know then expected.
Those numbers “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.
Approximately, 87 percent of new recruits are 18- to 24-year-olds, compared to about 29 percent of the comparable civilian population. Twenty-three states have full recreational marijuana, but more importantly the under 30 set see cannabis as fully ok. Military bases have bars and clubs serving alcohol, but that is falling out of favor for the new generation. Among Generation Z, marijuana outranks not only alcohol, but also tobacco for recreational use according to a study in New Frontier Data, a marijuana consumer research group. The study found that 69% of consumers aged 18-25 preferred cannabis products to alcohol. This is a statistic the military is having a hard time ignoring.
Not to be outdone, a report also shows Millennials are also drinking less than both Gen X and Baby Boomers. A separate report from Australia’s University of New South Wales also backs up the trend worldwide, finding 44 per cent of those ages 18-24 are drinking less than older generations. Millennials jumped on the cheaper, less body damaging marijuana trend just as legalization was to be outdone.
Cannabis use may no longer disqualify prospective applicants from joining the U.S. Air Force or U.S. Space Force as long as they stop consuming it once in the service. Recruits who otherwise qualified to serve but tested positive for THC at Military Entrance Processing Stations might be granted a waiver, Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, commander of Air Force Recruiting Service told Air Force Times.
He emphasized that applicants who test positive for THC while at MEPS are “permanently” prohibited from entering the Air Force or Space Force. However, with more states legalizing marijuana, the number of THC-positive applicants is rising. “We have to be realistic today,” Thomas continued. “We need to exercise common sense.” Interesting since the military during war time provide free cigarettes and cheap booze to our fighting men and women
Other positive news is last year the military changed policy for veterans can use medical marijuana without losing their eligibility for care and services, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs,
In a post on the department’s website, the VA clarified that although marijuana use is still considered federally illegal, “Veteran participation in state marijuana programs does not affect eligibility for VA care and services. VA providers can and do discuss marijuana use with Veterans as part of comprehensive care planning, and adjust treatment plans as necessary”.