Army Grants More Waivers To Enlist People Who Have Used Cannabis
If you’re looking for a sign that society is now turning over a new leaf in terms of cannabis, look no further: no other than the Army is helping to fight the stigma associated with pot use by granting hundreds of waivers so that people who used cannabis in their youth can still enlist. The only requirement is that those accepted shouldn’t use while in the military.
Even the Army is progressive; three years ago they never granted any waivers. But this year, they granted over 500 waivers, a huge increase from the 191 of 2016. This significant increase is a means for the Army to continue growing their size.
According to Maj. Gen. Jeff Snow, who oversees the Army’s recruitment: “Provided they understand that they cannot do that when they serve in the military, I will waive that all day long.” The cannabis exclusions are about a quarter of all the misconduct waivers that the Army granted in their year, ending on September 30. These waivers make up for around a 50% increase in recruits who required waivers for certain kinds of misconduct.
Snow says that the numbers will continue to increase especially as more states decriminalize or legalize cannabis use. It only makes sense for the Army to move forward since as of today, 8 states have already legalized small amounts of cannabis for adult recreational use while 13 more have decriminalized cannabis. Possessing small amounts of cannabis in these states no longer leads to jail; it’s viewed as the same level of misdemeanor as receiving a traffic ticket. On the other hand, 29 states as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, and Washington DC have all legalized medical cannabis.
Statistics show that over 8,000 Army recruits were given waivers in 2017, a jump from the 6,700 of last year; most of these waivers were about mental or physical health. Around 2% of recruits scored 31 or less out of 99 on aptitude, resulting in a category 4. Meanwhile, more than half were in the same category in 2016. All in all, the Army enlisted 69,000 new recruits which is almost 6,000 more than in 2016. Snow told an interview with the Associated Press that he asked if he would be able to enlist more category 4 recruits in order to meet enlistment goals, with the promise that the Army would remain below the 4% limit on the category as mandated by the Pentagon.
For recruits who scored less than 31 on aptitude, they are required to fulfill certain objectives for the job they are enlisting plus no special benefits will be given to them for using cannabis in the past. These recruits also won’t be granted waivers, health or otherwise. But according to Gen. Mark Milley, top officer at the Army, this move isn’t a sign that they’re reducing standards. An increase in category 4 recruits has caused concerns that the Army may be making the same mistakes experienced during the height of the Iran and Afghanistan wars over 10 years ago when soldiers were quickly enlisted just to meet deployment goals. Back then, the Army enlisted recruits who had criminal records or misconduct waivers – a move that resulted in an increase in behavioral problems.
Snow and Milley clarified that things will be different this time. “Quality matters more than quantity. If you make the numbers great, awesome. But do not break the standards,” said Milley. “Standards have to be upheld, period. So if we come in at less than the ideal number, but we’ve maintained the standards, that’s success.” However, the military still recruits fewer enlistees with waivers and those with lower scores than permitted according to the Defense Department guidelines. Even though the Army has added more recruits who have used drugs in the past or those with lower scores compared to the previous years, they still stayed well under the maximum levels allowed by the Pentagon. These recruits basically meet the bare minimum for the military, and also need to go through boot camp so even if Army officials say that they haven’t lowered standards, they still are recruiting more candidates that are only meeting the bare minimum requirements.
Snow was upfront about the difficulties in complying with higher enlistments goals. The Army was required to enlist 80,000 new men and women during the current fiscal year alone. “This mission is going to be a significant challenge for the command,” he said. Snow prefers less than 2% of new recruits to be from those in category 4. “The possibility does exist that the numbers of marijuana waivers and category fours could increase. I hope not, but it’s too early to tell right now.”