Military Loosens Drug Retest Policy

Article excerpt

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen has relaxed the waiting period for signing up inductees who recently smoked marijuana, a change that allows for a faster sign-up of inductees as the military struggles to meet recruiting goals.

Candidates used to have to wait 180 days after testing positive before becoming eligible to reapply. But Mr. Cohen signed an order May 11 reducing the time to 45 days, according to a copy of the memo made available to The Washington Times.

A Pentagon official said more sophisticated testing for THC - the active component in marijuana - enabled the military to shorten the waiting period.

"We can recruit faster," said Lt. Col. Katherine Abbott, a Pentagon spokeswoman. "But we also need to make very clear there is a no-tolerance drug policy in the military and our testing program will be maintained."

Mr. Cohen's memo said, "The increased sensitivity of drug testing makes it possible to reduce the waiting time for retesting applicants who test positive for marijuana. Therefore, to enable more rapid processing of applicants, the following testing procedures are approved."

The relaxation comes as the Army, Air Force and Navy have encountered shortfalls in attracting sufficient recruits. The Army missed its goal by more than 6,000 last year; The Air Force by 1,700. The Navy achieved its target after falling short in 1998. The Marine Corps, the smallest of the four branches, is meeting its quota.

The services also are lowering some recruit standards. The Army launched a pilot program to accept applicants who are not high school graduates. The Navy also is accepting a larger percentage of people without diplomas. …