The Army has made it easier to grant waivers for marijuana use as part of its effort to meet recruiting goals. The service has also increased spending on recruiting bonuses to over $420 million, compared to just $8.2 million in fiscal year 2014.
According to a report by USA Today, the Army has been dipping into so-called "Category Four" recruits to try to meet a goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers, up from 69,000 new soldiers in fiscal year 2017.
The report stated that about 2 percent of the 69,000 recruits were from that category, which involves people who score in the bottom third of ASVAB tests.
Marijuana, along with nine other substances, is specifically prohibited under Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and penalties for its use can range from a general discharge to dishonorable discharge (for positive results of a urinalysis) and even imprisonment for possession.
The Army says that these waivers are not going to compromise quality, but the low unemployment rate has caused challenges.
"We've got our work cut out for us," Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow told the paper.
One of the ways that the Army is trying to meet the challenge is to grant more waivers to prospective soldiers who admit to using marijuana. The authority for the waivers has been delegated to recruiting officers who hold the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Previously, only two-stars grant the waiver.
US Army Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby
The increased waivers may be an unintended consequence of the legalization of marijuana for either medicinal purposes or recreational use in a number of states. According to Me2 Enterprises, a number of jobs in Washington are going unfilled because people cannot pass drug tests, despite that state's legalization of marijuana.
Federal law still prohibits marijuana use.
This is not the first time that the military has dipped heavily into the Category Four pool. During the height of the fight against insurgents during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the services at times saw the "Category Four" portion of the recruit pool reach levels of over four percent, exceeding the Pentagon's cap.