Under New THC Rules, Air Force Recruits Can Still ‘Aim High’ Even If They’ve Been High

October 14, 2022Joshua Skovlund

Military Training Instructor Master Sgt. Michael Walsh monitors the Basic Cadet Training assault course at the U.S. Air Force Academy's Jacks Valley in Colorado Springs, Colo., on July 12, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Trevor Cokley.

The Air Force has long told recruits they should join to "Aim High." Now they can join even if they have been high.

A pilot program launched late last month will allow recruits disqualified for having tested positive for THC — a psychoactive compound found in marijuana — to retest three months later. Recruits usually face a urinalysis test for THC and other banned substances late in the recruiting process, often at a final Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS.

The program brings the Air Force in line with similar second-chance programs in the Army and Navy as all three services face recruiting struggles.

An Air Force spokesperson told Coffee or Die Magazine that while recruiters are now reaching out to previously barred applicants, few candidates are eligible. Chrissy Cuttita, an Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs representative, said that very few candidates have actually washed out due to urinalysis tests that find THC.


US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., issues the Oath of Enlistment to 68 delayed enlistment program applicants in front of the Veteran’s Day parade review stand, Nov. 11, 2021, in New York City. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Conroy.

“It's usually no issue with applicants at all,” Tech. Sgt. Kelvin Stovall, of the 364th Recruiting Squadron, said. “They understand that they're joining the Air Force and they know that marijuana is something that's not tolerated while you're in the Air Force.”

Stovall has been an Air Force recruiter for the past two years and is based out of an office in Vacaville, California. He said most recruits headed into the Air Force know they’ll face a urinalysis test at MEPS.

But, he said, with cannabis products becoming mainstream across the US, it’s understandable someone may have a THC-infused meal or beverage and not realize it.

“A small mistake doesn't necessarily end your Air Force endeavors,” Stovall said.


Lieutenant General Steven Kwast, Commander and President, Air University, prepares to swear in enlisted recruits from the Montgomery area Military Entrance Processing Station and cadets from Officer Training School during the Montgomery Biscuits' annual Military Appreciation Night for River Region residents who are serving or have served in the armed forces, April 25, 2015 at Montgomery, Alabama. US Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox.

Master Sgt. Brandon Reid is a flight chief for the 313th Recruiting Squadron and covers New York City’s boroughs of upper Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx.

Reid said that with “dabs” — a waxlike concentrated THC paste — and other products containing high concentrations of THC being widely available, they’ve found that THC can show up on a urinalysis for 90 days, longer than the 30 days that THC remains after smoking marijuana.

“If they happen to have tested positive even though it was, let's say, up to 90 days ago, then that applicant didn’t just lose out completely based on simply bad timing,” Reid said. “[They still have] an opportunity to take advantage of what the Air Force can offer.”

The THC urinalysis second-chance program is the latest attempt to attract potential recruits. The Air Force managed to meet its 2022 enlisted accessions goal of shipping 26,151 non-prior-service airmen. However, the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard did not meet final numbers.


Master Sgt. Brandon Reid has been recognized as one of the US Air Force's top recruiters in 2021. US Air Force photo. Composite image by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die Magazine.

The pilot program follows another waiver policy for certain hand tattoos. According to a press release, the Air Force’s previous tattoo policy led to the loss of 1,000 or more recruits each year to other services that had different standards.

“We're trying to open the aperture a little bit and understand where we can make some headway given that society has changed a little bit, but at the same time making sure that those Air Force standards stay at that level that we need them to,” Reid said.

Read Next: A Farewell Letter From Coffee or Die’s Founding Editor

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis that followed the death of George Floyd. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he earned his CrossFit Level 1 certificate and worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. he went on to work in paramedicine for more than five years, much of that time in the North Minneapolis area, before transitioning to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion, where he publishes poetry focused on his life experiences.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
‘Butter Butter Jam!’: Troops Loved, and Hated, the M249 SAW

For nearly 50 years, the SAW has played a major role in America’s wars. Now it’s being replaced by new weapons.

February 8, 2023Mac Caltrider
Coffee Or Die Photo
Space Force Vows ‘Above and Beyond’ Cleanup of Maui Spill

Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, the commander of the U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, said a team will t...

February 8, 2023Associated Press
Coffee Or Die Photo
Navy Releases First Photos of Chinese Balloon Recovery

In the newest images released by the Navy on Tuesday, sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022. Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who oppose a COVID-19 vaccination requirement on religious grounds want a federal appeals court to keep alive their legal fight against the Biden administration. Congress voted to end the requirement in December 2022, but vaccine opponents note that commanders can still make decisions on how and whether to deploy unvaccinated troops, under a memo signed last month by Austin. AP photo by Susan Walsh, File.
Vaccine Litigation Lingers After Lifting of Military Mandate

Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who refuse to be vaccinated for religious...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Armed Forces Service Medal
Who Earns the Armed Forces Service Medal?

The Department of Defense honors heroism in combat in many ways, but there is also an award — the Ar...

February 7, 2023Noelle Wiehe
Soldiers carry the coffin of Eduard Strauss, a Ukrainian serviceman who died in combat on Jan. 17 in Bakhmut, during a farewell ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. AP photo by Daniel Cole.
Russian Forces Keep Up Pressue As Ukraine Anniversary Nears

Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with attacks in the eastern Donbas region as M...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Chinese spy balloon
Blown to Bits! Chinese Spy Balloon Blasted, Plummets Into Sea

The US Air Force downed the Chinese balloon that's been soaring over the US.

February 4, 2023Carl Prine
germany, european union, ukraine gas reserves
Ukraine Wants To Store Europe’s Strategic Gas Reserves

Ukraine maintains 12 underground gas storage facilities with a total capacity of about 31 billion cu...

February 3, 2023Nolan Peterson
  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved