US Army Granting More Waivers for Those with History of Cannabis Use
Over the past fifty years, we have seen increasing acceptance of cannabis use across the nation. Public support for the legalization of marijuana has grown from 12 percent in 1969 to 64 percent today.
More than 30 states have legalized it in some form and over 128 million people, more than half of American adults, have tried it. And several respected communities are changing their views about medical marijuana, including the medical community — with the American Osteopathic Association recently supporting a review of its classification.
The U.S. Army is Changing its Position Too
In an attempt to increase soldiers, the army has been allowing increased numbers of recruits who have a history of cannabis use. Over the last three years, they have issued more waivers for past drug use.
This change doesn’t detract from the otherwise strict medical, legal, moral, and age requirements that applicants must meet in order to be enlisted. However, a waiver can be issued if the military considers that a recruit does not meet a particular requirement but could still be an asset. Waivers have been used in the US military since the 1960’s, however, drug and conducted-related waivers have only been issued in the past three years.
The Associated Press reported that the Army has steadily increased the number of drug-related or poor conduct waivers it has granted over the past three years — from 19 percent in 2016, to over 30 percent for six months of 2018. This number is highest among all military services.
The army plans to add an extra 8,000 soldiers in 2018 and sees the waivers as necessary due to competition. It is particularly interested in enlisting people into technology-based positions, such as satellite communication and cryptologists.
Will it Exclude Anyone From Applying?
The new Army Secretary, Mark Esper, spoke earlier this year on this change in position, saying past cannabis use won’t exclude anyone from applying:
“If a young kid comes in and says, ‘I’m a habitual user and I have no intent on giving it up because it is my God-given right,’ then sorry, you go somewhere else. But if [an applicant] comes in and says, ‘I’m in a state that has legalized marijuana and I tried it once when I was 15 at a party and it’s not for me and I have no intent on doing it and oh, by the way, I’m a 3.2 GPA and I’m on the basketball team.’ I’ll take you, I’ll give you a waiver and I’ll take you.”
This is a position that has been echoed in the US Air Force. Former Secretary, Deborah James released a memo last year that updated its guidance on cannabis use, stating that their policies were “not reflective of the continuing legalization of marijuana in numerous states throughout the nation.”
While this change in position has brought the army into current times, they are still behind in allowing the use of cannabis among its troops and veterans. The Department of Veteran Affairs still won’t allow the use of marijuana for veterans with PTSD and severe pain, despite lobbying by The American Legion and the many studies showing its benefits.
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