US Air Force Changes Prior Marijuana Use Policy
The United States Air Force will no longer disqualify potential recruits based on previous marijuana use.
With marijuana legal in one form or another in over half of the country, the Air Force reevaluated their policy. Previously, the brand of the military could refuse a recruit based on the amount of times they had consumed cannabis. But the questions were inconsistent among recruiters.
“Some recruiters used to ask if you smoked marijuana less than five times, sometimes it was less than 15 times,” said Lt. General Gina Grosso, deputy chief of staff for Air Force manpower, personnel, and services.
Recruiters will no longer ask about prior cannabis use. Because, as Grosso said, “Who really counts how many times they’ve used marijuana?”
“Who really counts how many times they’ve used marijuana?” – Lt. General Gina Grosso
The Air Force will also no longer consider the timing of a potential recruit’s cannabis use in relation to their application. The amount of days, weeks, or months before enlisting that a potential recruit has used cannabis no longer limits their chance of enlistment.
For active airmen, there is a a zero tolerance policy for marijuana use. So medical marijuana patients cannot consume it while enlisted. “Any condition that would require a prescription of medical cannabis would probably be a disqualifying condition o to begin with,” explained the Air Force’s surgeon general, Lt. General (Dr.) Mark Ediger.
Although there are still some barriers, this is a step forward. The Air Force joins other organizations that have begun reconsidering their stances on marijuana over the past year.
In May 2016, Congress lifted a law that prohibited Veterans Affairs doctors from prescribing medical marijuana. VA doctors now can discuss medical marijuana as a treatment option for veteran patients in states where it is legal.
“The death rate from opioids among VA health care is nearly double the national average,” said Representative Earl Blumenaur, D-Ore., who offered this amendment. “From what I hear from veterans is that medical marijuana has helped them deal with pain and PTSD, particularly as an alternative to opioids.”
US Military Changes Marijuana Policy Before NFL and NBA
Opioid use is also an issue among intensive sports players. Players and coaches are advocating for cannabis as a non-addictive alternative.
The NFL Player’s Association formed a new committee in 2016 to examine players’ pain issues. “Given some of the medical research that’s out there, cannabis is going to be one of the substances we take a look at,” said Union executive Union executive George Atalla.
Because football is an intense sport with high risk for injury, players are often prescribed powerful painkillers. These can be highly addictive and lead to other health risks.
Golden State Warriors coach and NBA coach of the year Steve Kerr recently spoke up on the matter. “I’m not an expert on this stuff,” he acknowledged. “But I do know this: if you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you got a lot of pain, I don’t think there’s any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin.”
“The issue that’s really important is how do we do what’s best for the players,” said Kerr.
There’s still work to be done. VA doctors still cannot provide medical marijuana or cover the prescription cost for their patients. The NBA and NFL have yet to officially change their policies and penalties for cannabis use. But as the acceptance of cannabis grows throughout the country, organizations are moving in the right direction.