Aim High

Maybe the US Air Force should change its motto back to “Aim High.”

When I joined the Army back in 1986 and was preparing to go to the military entrance processing station (MEPS) for a comprehensive physical, all of us potential cadets were given some advice by the cadre. We were told, “They are going to ask you, ‘When was the last time you smoked marijuana?’. The correct answer to that question is, ‘never'”.   That was just fine with me; I never had.

Maybe they haven’t changed their motto. The “Aim High” verbiage is clearly present on their current recruiting/informational app. Screenshot from the official US Air Force website

According to the website Criminal Defense Lawyer,

“On a federal level, all marijuana remains illegal. The federal government classifies marijuana, along with heroin and cocaine, as a Schedule I drug with a high potential for abuse and little to no medical benefit.”

With this in mind, all but 11 states have made the use of marijuana legal for medicinal or recreational use. Yet, even in a liberal White House, I’m reminded of how five staffers were reportedly fired for their past use of the herb.

If you were curious, states keeping marijuana illegal are:

  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
  • Tennessee
  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Nebraska
  • Kentucky
  • Kansas
  • Indiana
  • Idaho

Both the US Air Force and Space Force are considering overlooking the use of this schedule 1 drug as a bar to enlistment. According to the Clearance Jobs website, the Commander of the Air Force recruiting service at Joint (no pun intended) Base San Antonio-Randolph, Major General Edward W. Thomas Jr, has said it has become necessary to consider giving waivers to recruits testing positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana responsible for making one high before they receive their initial training. He told the Air Force Times,

“If applicants test positive for THC when they go to the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station), they’re permanently barred from entering the Air Force or the Space Force. But as more states legalize cannabis, there is an increased prevalence of THC-positive applicants. We have to be realistic today. We need to exercise common sense.”

I’m not buying the “everyone is doing it” excuse. Not from a Major General in the United States Air Force speaking from one of the states where the substance remains illegal. For the record, I have nothing against marijuana; I just wish the federal government would pick one legality status for it and go with that.

Cannabis sativa Image Credit: Michael Fischer / Pexels

The General went on to say that if potential recruit tests positive for marijuana, but the service believes they will stop using the drug once they enter the service, that would be grounds for a waiver. However, when pushed for an answer, the Air Force did not say when the policy would be finalized or implemented.

They Are Not Being Trend Setters Here

The US Navy has led the way on this initiative. In April of 2021, they started a two-year trial program that allowed applicants who tested positive for THC at MEPS to be granted a waiver and continue along in the training pipeline after a 90-day waiting period. Hold on a second; I’m just being informed that my beloved Army also has a policy where if a potential recruit tests positive for marijuana at MEPS after 90 days, they can request a waiver to join the service. However, if that potential recruit “pops hot” (tests positive) for any drug upon subsequent testing, that would be an automatic disqualifier for joining the Army.

Right now, I’m wondering why the two services have a 90-day waiting period. Is it punitive? Are they giving people the chance to “smoke it up” and get it out of their systems? Seriously, if anyone has an idea, please let me know in the comments.

Certainly, the Marine Corps won’t tolerate any of this nonsense, will they?

US Marine in a marijuana field in Afghanistan
Shown here in Afghanistan, this Marine SAW gunner knows the killing fields are not for smoking. Image Credit: Staff Sgt. Luis R Agostini via Wikimedia Commons

It turns out that the Marine Corps currently allows an applicant who tests positive for THC to request a waiver that would enable them to join the service. If that waiver is approved, the applicant could return to the MEPS station 45 days later for a “do-over.” Then, they would be re-tested and medically re-evaluated.

What about after your career if you become a VA patient?

Let’s assume you get your waiver, put in your service, get an honorable discharge, and are eligible for medical services from VA healthcare facilities. What are their views on marijuana? The official US Department of Veterans Affairs website is quick to remind prior service members that,

The Army is giving more waivers to recruits for marijuana use, sparking concern about who’s getting in

Read Next: The Army is giving more waivers to recruits for marijuana use, sparking concern about who’s getting in

“Veterans should know that federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule One Controlled Substance. This makes it illegal in the eyes of the federal government. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is required to follow all federal laws including those regarding marijuana.”

I’ve been a VA patient for at least 15 years and have chronic pain issues in addition to a bunch of other stuff I won’t get into here. Despite what I’ve written above, the VA tells you, on the same page, “Veterans are encouraged to discuss marijuana use with their VA providers.” But…they can’t recommend it or prescribe it. It can make for some awkward office visits. When asking what they thought might help me, a couple of my docs suddenly became lawyers and said stuff to the effect of, “There are certain substances that might be of help to you, but I cannot mention them specifically or recommend them to you.” Cue awkward silence.

The VA isn’t big on any kind of pain meds these days, and given the number of people who’ve abused them in the past, that’s probably a good thing. A couple of years ago, I had surgery on my hand. I’ll spare you the gory pictures. After the hour-long open procedure, I was sent home with VA-supplied Tylenol and ibuprofen. Groggy and coming out of the anesthesia, I asked my surgeon an obvious question that seemed kind of stupid now, “Is this gonna hurt?”  I mean, of course, it’s going to hurt; he just cut through layers of fat and muscle and reattached tendons and ligaments. “Yeah, he replied honestly, but you guys are tough…you’ll be OK.” Then he gave me a gentle pat on the shoulder, and I didn’t see him again until the follow-up.

Can you imagine hearing that in a civilian hospital? But I digress…He was right; it hurt like a mother, and, yes, I sucked it up and was eventually fine. I never used the Tylenol or ibuprofen as that stuff upsets my stomach. And I learned a long time ago never to ask for pain meds as that will almost certainly get you labeled as a drug seeker.

Back to the pot, the VA website reminds us, as patients, that VA hospitals and their grounds are federal properties and that all federal laws apply. They are patrolled by VA police, no under-trained security guards here. If you blaze one up on hospital grounds, chances are more than good you’ll be arrested and brought up on federal charges, even if you live in a state where marijuana is legal.

My advice: “Just say no.”