Army Granting More Waivers for Recruits Who Used Marijuana in the Past

Smoked pot? Want to go to war?

No problem.

As more states lessen or eliminate marijuana penalties, the Army is granting hundreds of waivers to enlist people who used the drug in their youth — as long as they realize they can’t do so again in the military.

The number of waivers granted by the active-duty Army for marijuana use jumped to more than 500 this year from 191 in 2016. Three years ago, no such waivers were granted. The big increase is just one way officials are dealing with orders to expand the Army’s size.

“Provided they understand that they cannot do that when they serve in the military, I will waive that all day long,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Snow, head of the Army’s recruiting command.

The marijuana use exclusions represent about one-quarter of the total misconduct waivers the Army granted in the budget year that ended Sept. 30. They accounted for much of the 50 percent increase overall in recruits who needed a waiver for some type of misconduct.

Snow said the figures probably will rise further as more states legalize or decriminalize marijuana.

Eight states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington — and the District of Columbia have fully legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults’ recreational use. An additional 13 states have decriminalized it, meaning possession of small amounts is considered the equivalent of a traffic citation or a low-end misdemeanor with no chance of jail. Twenty-nine states, along with Puerto Rico, Guam and Washington, D.C., allow the use of medical marijuana.

Army leaders have faced increased scrutiny in recent weeks amid worries in Congress and elsewhere about a decline in quality among new enlistees.

Army data show more than 8,000 recruits received waivers in 2017, compared with about 6,700 last year. Most waivers concerned physical or mental health.

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SOURCE: The Associated Press, Lolita C. Baldor

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