Until now, U.S. Air Force applicants who tested positive for THC were automatically banned from service, sometimes even when cannabis was consumed months ago.
According to a recent announcement, the U.S. Air Force will establish a two-year pilot program that allows applicants to have a second chance if they test positive for THC.
“The Department of the Air Force has established a two-year pilot program that allows a retest for applicants who test positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) during the accession physical examination at the Military Entrance Processing Station,” the announcement reads.
The Pentagon bans recruits from consuming cannabis products—including CBD products—but it’s up to the individual services to set their own policies on how to handle recruits who test positive.
“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. Previously, a positive THC result on the initial test would have led to a permanent bar from entry into the DAF. The pilot program offers some prospective applicants an opportunity to retest after 90 days if they are granted a waiver. If those who have been granted a waiver pass a second test, candidates will be allowed to enlist.”
Applicants are determined suitable for a waiver if they meet a list of requirements. THC waiver applications are subject to multiple levels of scrutiny before an applicant is determined eligible.
Waiver applicants will only be considered if and only if: they scored 50 or higher on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, do not have any Cat 1 or 2 moral violations, they possess a high school diploma (Tier 1, no alternate credentials), and are otherwise medically qualified for service.
Recruits for the United States Air Force, U.S. Space Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard will be subject to the rules. Once individuals enter the waiver program, they must adhere to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and DAF policy which prohibits drug use.
The policy is effective immediately and the pilot program will remain in effect for two years. After a period of two years, data will be collected and analyzed to determine the suitability of a more permanent change to DAF recruiting and accessions policy.
“If applicants test positive for THC when they go to the MEPS, they’re permanently barred from entering the Air Force or the Space Force,” Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas told Air Force Times. “But as more states legalize cannabis, there is an increased prevalence of THC-positive applicants.”
Back in 2017, the U.S. Air Force expanded its ranks by ramping up the number of medical waivers it issues for potential recruits who consume cannabis for medical reasons, Military.com recently reported.
Other branches of the services are also taking similar actions.
Last year in April, the Navy launched its own two-year pilot program in which otherwise qualified applicants who test positive for THC at MEPS can get a waiver. The waiver allows them to join boot camp following a 90-day waiting period, and the program will run until April 2023. If a recruit turns tests positive for THC while at Recruit Training Command, or basic training, waivers to allow them return have already been available.
Likewise, the Army also enforces a 90-day waiting period in the event that recruits test positive for THC at MEPS. Those soldiers can also ask for a waiver to join the service. However, if a recruit tests positive for any drug on their second test, they are permanently disqualified from joining the Army.