By / February 12, 2024

U.S. Navy Softens Approach to Cannabis Among Recruits

In response to an ongoing recruitment crisis, the U.S. Navy is taking steps to increase the number of recruits by changing its policy on cannabis.

Under new guidelines, recruits arriving at the Recruit Training Command center who initially test positive for THC – the main psychoactive component of cannabis – will no longer be automatically sent home.

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Policy Change in Response to Legal Changes

Adm. James Waters, director of the Navy’s personnel plans and policy division, emphasized that the aim of this change is to reflect the current legal status of cannabis in society.

“We are aware that many states have legalized cannabis,” he stated, adding that the more lenient approach to THC test results is limited only to cannabis and does not apply to other drugs.

This policy is part of a series of actions taken by the military to combat recruitment shortages. To achieve its 2024 recruitment goal of enlisting 40,000 new sailors, the Navy aims to reduce the number of individuals dropping out of boot camp, which currently stands at about 10%.

Over the past few years, especially after the legalization of cannabis, various military branches have informed their ranks about specific cannabis-related rules. The Navy had already announced in 2018 that its members could not use CBD and cannabis products, regardless of their legality. In 2022, the Naval War College warned soldiers and sailors about new cannabis products on the market.

Veterans and Cannabis

Military veterans have long been a driving force in the drug reform movement, partly because they have used cannabis to treat health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and as an alternative to opioids.

Previous studies have shown that 6 out of 10 veterans support the legalization of cannabis, and over 72% support the ability of doctors from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to legally prescribe cannabis.

In Congress, efforts are underway to allow VA doctors to issue recommendations for medical cannabis to veterans living in states where it is legal.


The U.S. Navy’s policy shift regarding cannabis, reflecting changes in society and law, highlights an evolution in the approach to recruits who use cannabis. This initiative, along with similar actions by other branches of the armed forces, aims to minimize the loss of potential recruits while adapting to the changing social and legal realities surrounding cannabis.

(Featured image by Official U.S. Navy Page (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr)

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