Cannabis in America

Air Force Relaxes Marijuana Restrictions for Recruits

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Last week the Air Force relaxed its rules for recruits who have used marijuana prior to their enlistment. The changes also include more leniency for recruits with ADHD, eczema, and asthma, which will now be examined on a case-by-case basis. The rule changes signify a traditional institution adapting to an America that is slowly and steadily legalizing marijuana at the state level.

“As medical capabilities have improved and laws have changed, the Air Force is evolving so we are able to access more worldwide deployable Airmen to conduct the business of our nation,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement.

Before the changes, Air Force recruits were asked in an interview if they had smoked marijuana at some point in the last few days, weeks, or months. Questions about a recruit’s past marijuana use varied, and the time periods asked about were inconsistent. Now, with the rule changes, previous pot use is not a disqualifying factor for enlistment. Marijuana use for active recruits, however, remains strictly forbidden.

The rule changes follow a year-long review of Air Force practices by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. “In this instance, we identified specific changes we can make to allow more members of our nation to serve without compromising quality,” she said in a statement. The change in policy represents the branch’s response to changing social norms that are sweeping the country.

Last November, eight states legalized marijuana, either recreationally or medically. Florida and California, states with a high number of military recruits, passed ballot measures to legalize medical and recreational marijuana respectively. The drug remains banned at the federal level, but public opinion and state-level legislation is slowly tipping in favor of full legalization. One-quarter of Americans now live in a state with some form of marijuana legalization measures in place.

And now, as long as a recruit does not use the drug while in service, previous use is not a disqualifying factor. Officials with the Air Force hope these changes will widen their ranks. “These changes allow the Air Force to aggressively recruit talented and capable Americans who until now might not have been able to serve our country in uniform,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody.

Alec Siegel
Alec Siegel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. When he’s not working at Law Street he’s either cooking a mediocre tofu dish or enjoying a run in the woods. His passions include: gooey chocolate chips, black coffee, mountains, the Animal Kingdom in general, and John Lennon. Baklava is his achilles heel. Contact Alec at



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