Are more cannabis consumers joining the Air Force?

air force cannabis recruit

The legalization of cannabis in 38 states and counting means that more people than ever are consuming the plant—including recruits for the armed forces.

Up until recently, the military had strict standards for potential recruits and marijuana. But with dwindling numbers, the Air Force implemented a pilot program giving applicants the ability to get clean if they tested positive for THC in their initial drug screening. 

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According to a report on, Air Force officials expected around 50 cases when the new policy went into effect last year. As of this week, 165 waivers have been granted—more than triple the projected number.

To qualify for a waiver, recruits must “score well on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, have graduated high school, and not have any other potential barriers to joining the service like a medical or past legal issue.” Those who fail initial drug tests are re-tested 90 days later.

A 2021 study showed that over 50 percent of new military recruits come from states with legal marijuana. The research also showed that previous cannabis consumption made no difference in how applicants fared once enlisted.

“Recruits who make it into the U.S. Army despite low-level histories of marijuana use perform no worse, overall, than other soldiers,” the study authors concluded. “That should be welcome news in recruiting offices nationwide.”

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Representatives for the Air Force Recruiting Service believe that as cannabis legalization spreads, the number of applicants requesting waivers will likely rise.

“As more states adopt more leniency toward cannabis and THC derivatives, we anticipate a continued increase,” spokeswoman Chrissy Cuttita told

The report is more evidence that past cannabis consumption doesn’t have to be a scarlet letter. As more federal agencies change their tune on the plant, doors will continue to open for people with a previous penchant for pot.


rachelle gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist, Emerald Cup judge, Budist critic, and editor of She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter