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Air Force No Longer Questions Prior Marijuana Use



The Air Force will still have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to airmen smoking or using marijuana, but how many days, weeks or months prior to enlisting that a potential airman used will no longer be a limiting factor.

The service is no longer considering how long it has been since an airman used marijuana prior to service in a move to “standardize” the questions asked of potential recruits.

Air Force admission sources were inconsistent on what timeframe was acceptable for prior marijuana use.

“Standards of pre-accession marijuana use were different for getting into the Air Force Academy vs. Air Force Recruiting Service for enlistment or officer training school vs. AFROTC,” said Air Force spokesman Zachary Anderson.

“We didn’t ask the same questions,” said Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, deputy chief of staff for Air Force manpower, personnel and services. “Some recruiters used if you smoked marijuana less than five times, sometimes it was less than 15 times.”

States legalizing recreational marijuana in one form or another — Colorado, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia — made the Air Force question, “How should we think about that?” Grosso said.

“What we decided to do is stop asking [about] prior marijuana use at the recruiter level,” she said, because “first of all, who really counts how many times they’ve used marijuana? So that just comes off the table.”

Grosso reiterated that once a recruit enters the process of becoming an airman, any marijuana use detected will automatically cause him or her to be separated from service.

“We do not have any waivers for that,” she said. “And any drug dependency which we determine through a different procedure is also fully disqualifying.”

Ediger said a diagnosed substance abuse disorder — not limited to marijuana — will also preclude service.

“Through the [MEPS], there are some evidence-based screening questionnaires that can be used to screen for that disorder,” Ediger said. “Any condition that would require prescription of medical marijuana would probably be a disqualifying condition to begin with.”

The MEPS screening is not just for marijuana — it looks for opioids or the abuse of prescription pain drugs for recreational purposes.

A run-in with the law in a state where marijuana is illegal is also a disqualifying factor, Grosso said.

The Air Force routinely and randomly screens its airmen per rules outlined in the drug demand reduction program policy.

by Oriana Pawlyk,