Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press
Updated at 3:39 p.m., Saturday, December 2, 2017
Photo: John Locher, AP
Smoked pots and want to get ready? Army issuing more exemptions
WASHINGTON (AP) – Smoked pot? Do you want to go to war?
As more states reduce or eliminate marijuana penalties, the Army grants hundreds of exemptions to recruit people who used the drug in their youth, provided they realize they can do so. "T do it again in the military
The number of exemptions granted by the Army on active duty for the use of marijuana increased to more than 500 this year from 191 in 2016. Three years ago, no such exemptions were granted, the large increase is just one of the ways in which officials are dealing with orders to expand the size of the Army.
"As long as they understand that they can not do that when they serve in the army, I will suspend it all day long," said the commanding general. of the Army Recruitment Command.
The exclusions for marijuana use represent approximately a quarter of the total exemptions for misconduct granted by the Army in the budget year. It was scheduled to end on September 30. in general, recruits who needed an exemption for some type of misconduct.
Snow said the numbers are likely to increase further as more states legalize or decriminalize marijuana.
Eight states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Mbadachusetts, Oregon and Washington – and the District of Columbia have fully legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for the recreational use of adults. Another 13 states have decriminalized it, which means that the possession of small amounts is considered equivalent to a traffic offense or a minor offense of low severity without possibility of jail. Twenty-nine states, along with Puerto Rico, Guam and Washington, DC, allow the use of medical marijuana.
Army leaders have faced greater scrutiny in recent weeks amid concerns in Congress and elsewhere about the decline in quality among the new enlisted.
Army data show that more than 8,000 recruits received exemptions in 2017, compared to about 6,700 last year. Most of the exemptions related to physical or mental health.
Almost 2 percent of recruits were considered "category four," meaning they got 31 or less, out of 99, on the aptitude test. Just over half a percent was in that category in 2016.
In total, the Army got almost 69,000 recruits this year, about 6,000 more than last year.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Snow said he went to his Army leadership earlier this year to ask if he could attract more category four recruits to achieve higher enlistment goals. He said he promised that the Army would stay well below the 4 percent limit of the group allowed by the Pentagon.
Recruits who score less than 31 on the test must meet specific criteria for the job they are applying for. There is no room for maneuver to smoke marijuana previously. Nor can they demand a health or behavior exemption.
The army's top official, General Mark Milley, told reporters during a recent report that the service is not cutting the standards.
The increases in category four are listed, however, fueling concerns that the military may repeat the mistakes made during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade ago, when it quickly added soldiers to the ranks to meet deployment needs. At that time, the Army brought more recruits with criminal records and exemptions for misconduct. Over the years, discipline problems and other behavior problems also increased.
Milley and Snow insist that it will not happen again.
"Quality matters more than quantity, if the numbers are done, great, incredible, do not break the standards," Milley said. "The standards have to be respected, period, so if we reach a lower number than the ideal, but we have maintained the standards, that is success."
However, the Army's argument can be a bit misleading. Military services routinely recruit fewer recruits with exemptions or scores lower than those allowed under the Department of Defense guidelines. Therefore, while the Army increased the number of former drug users or recruits with lower scores than in previous years, the service still remained below the maximum levels authorized by the Pentagon. And those recruits must go through the training camp, thus meeting the minimum standards to join the army.
Officials can argue that they have not lowered the standards, even if they had enrolled more candidates of lower quality.
Snow recognized the challenge to achieve the growing goals of enlistment. In the current fiscal year, the Army must recruit 80,000 new men and women.
"This mission is going to be a significant challenge for the command," said Snow, who wants less than 2 percent of new recruits to be category four. "There is a possibility that the number of marijuana exemptions and categories will increase, I hope not, but it's too early to say it now."