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Air Force Implements New Drug Testing Policy Around Positive Cannabis Results

Ed Knight

By Ed Knight

September 29, 2022

Jet aircrafts flying over the clouds.

iStock

Recruits who were denied entrance to the Air Force because they

for cannabis might be in line for a do-over.

that “the Department of the Air Force is allowing a two-year pilot program that permits a retest for applicants who test positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) during an initial physical exam at a military entrance processing station.”

“We are reviewing our initial entry disqualifies and looking at historical data to remove barriers to ensure we are not screening out candidates who will be successful Airmen and Guardians,” the Air Force said,

.

, the new policy is “effective immediately and in effect for two years,” and it “applies to recruits to the Air and Space forces, the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard.”

Following the two year trial period, the Air Force will assess whether to continue with the policy. 

The Army and Navy have enacted similar pilot programs, signs that even the United States military — which has historically taken a hardline against both current and past drug use — is reckoning with the changing laws and attitudes toward marijuana throughout the country. 

“As more states have legalized marijuana, there has been an increase of applicants who test positive for THC but are otherwise qualified for military service,” the Air Force said in a statement. “This pilot program will give us the information we need to inform a permanent, data-driven policy.

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Air Force Pilot Program Limited to Certain Applicants

The Air Force

last month that it was mulling whether to enact the pilot program. Ann Stefanek, a spokesperson for the Air Force, explained to Air Force Times what the changes in the policy will look like in practice.

“Previously, a positive THC result on the initial test would have led to a permanent bar from entry into the [Air Force or Space Force],” Stefanek

. “The pilot program offers some prospective applicants an opportunity to retest after 90 days if they are granted a waiver.”

But those waivers won’t be doled out to just anybody. In order to earn one,

, “applicants must score at least 50 points on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, have no felony or misdemeanor convictions, possess a high school diploma and be otherwise medically qualified for service,” and “must meet all other qualification standards as well.”

“If those who have been granted a waiver pass a second test, candidates will be allowed to enlist,” Stefanek said,

.

Recreational marijuana is legal in 19 states, and there are legalization proposals on the ballot in several other states this November. 

Democrats on Capitol Hill have pursued legislation that would deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, the law that enshrines pot prohibition on the federal level. 

Senior government officials in recent years have openly suggested that the drug testing requirements for top jobs in Washington should be reassessed. 

In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter was asked at a conference whether he would hire someone who had dabbled in some “goodies” prior to applying.

“It’s a very good question and we are changing that, in recognition of the fact that times change and generations change and by the way, laws change as respect to marijuana,” Carter said,

.

“In that and many other ways, we need to, while protecting ourselves and doing the appropriate things to make sure that it’s safe to entrust information with people, we need to understand  —  and we do  —  the way people [and] lives have changed, not hold against them things that they’ve done when they were younger,” Carter

. “It’s an important question and the answer is yes, we can be flexible in that regard, and we need to.”

Ed Knight

About The Author

Ed Knight

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.

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