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Navy Enlistment Policy for Prior Drug Usage

Navy Drug Waivers

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Published: October 5, 2010
Updated: February 13, 2019

There is not a day that goes by that I do not receive an email or comment that goes something like these few examples, “How many times could I have smoked marijuana and still be eligible for an intel job?”, “My charges say I was arrested for possession with intent, but it was my friends stuff he had. Do I need a waiver?”, and just today, “Any information on whether a single instance of hallucinogenic mushroom use is waiverable?” As those of you know based on the email responses, I will not describe to you how many times you could have used a drug and still be within waiverable limits. I expect you to be honest with the Navy, and I do not want to influence an answer by showing limits.

The Department of the Navy’s policy on pre-service drug use/abuse;

Department of the Navy policy is that drug and alcohol dependent applicants, current drug and alcohol abusers, and those individuals whose pre-service abuse of drugs and/or alcohol indicates a proclivity to continue abuse in the service, are not permitted to enter the naval service. The Navy recognizes that some people have clear potential to become creditable performers despite past exposure to drug and/or alcohol abuse. Recruiting procedures must include positive measures to identify and screen out drug and/or alcohol abusers at the point of application for enlistment.

The Navy’s policy is pretty clear. If you desire to continue use or abuse controlled substances, the Navy does not want you, period. But if you have stopped the use, completely stopped, and have no desire or intent to illegally use or abuse controlled substances again, you may be eligible for a waiver that, if granted, would allow you to serve in the United States Navy.

The use of controlled substances such as, narcotics, depressants, psychedelic, stimulant, synthetic/designer, hallucinogenic (LSD is two year) is a minimum of a one year waiting period after use before a waiver could be considered. If you ever tested positive for any illegal drugs at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), there are no waivers, no do overs, you’re done. So, where you can process after using marijuana, understand it had better have been your last time and you had better not have any residual THC still flowing through your veins when you go to MEPS. Consider yourself notified.

If you have ever been a distributor, trafficker, supplier, seller, for profit or not, of illegal drugs, and even if you are arrested for possession with the just the intent to distribute of illegal drugs or any controlled substance that you are not legally certified to distribute, you are banned from joining the military forever. There are no waivers, no do overs, you’re done.

If you have been convicted or adversely adjudicated for two or more drug or alcohol offenses, you require a drug or alcohol waiver. Keep in mind that an alcohol and/or drug offense waiver is in addition to any conduct waiver that you may also need.

The Department of the Navy’s policy of in-service drug use/abuse is ZERO TOLERANCE. One time and you are done; no do overs, no waivers, done, and in most cases, say goodbye to any benefits you may have earned – even the GI-Bill and VA mortgage benefits.

Applicants with pre-service conduct waivers (drug, alcohol, or criminal) are disqualified for overseas assignment for their first duty station.

Policy UPDATE as of November 5, 2013:

“Program eligibility has been revised for AIRR, EOD, ND, SO and SB ratings. BUPERS-32 has authorized Navy Recruiting Command (N32) to approve program eligibility determinations for drug abuse offenses involving marijuana only. Approvals may be made on a case-by-case basis for applicants with no more than one misdemeanor drug abuse offense (e.g. possession of marijuana or paraphernalia). Drug abuse offenses involving drugs other than marijuana will not be considered. Use of marijuana while in DEP will result in loss of AIRR, EOD, ND, SO or SB rating guarantee for those previously approved with a drug abuse offense. Policies involving use of other drugs remain unchanged.”

“For the Nuclear Field Program, any marijuana use while in DEP is disqualifying. No waivers are authorized.”

Drug testing while in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP):Current policy per COMNAVCRUITCOMINST 1130.9L, released on October 20, 2014, the drug test for drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines will be given at your 30 day and 24 hour DEP recertification completed before boot-camp; additionally, the commanding officer of the Navy Recruiting District can order up to three additional tests at his/her discretion (random). You will again be tested within 24 hours of arriving to boot-camp.

This is about as detailed as I will get on the subject of drug waivers.

MAJOR UPDATE: effective immediately (July 16, 2015), the Delayed Entry Program Non-Instrumented Drug Testing program (NIDT) has been eliminated. Drug testing in the Navy DEP will no longer take place. The rules for a positive drug test at MEPS and at boot-camp remain the same — it you are positive for any illegal drug, you will be discharged immediately — no waivers authorized.



2,883 Responses to “Navy Drug Waivers”


  1. NCCM(Ret) says:

    BW,

    For all the Navy CT ratings, he would be ineligible for entry into Class “A” School within 6 months of last MJ use. May be enlisted in DEP with appropriate eligibility determination, but must meet six month criterion prior to shipping to boot-camp.

  2. Jerome says:

    Good afternoon sir i have a couple question if you dont mind .
    So while i was active duty air force . I got roped into a possession of paraphernalia and marijuana charges. The air force picked up they case and the charges were dropped . Nothing came of it and i got a 5 on my EPR the same year and served 6 years with a honorable discharge 1J. I also received a dui in 2014 as a civilian. Can i qualify for waivers. A recruiter told me i had to wait at least for years for the dui waiver ?

    Thank you for your time

  3. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Jerome,

    The police and court records concerning the drug charges must be reviewed. They will be ensuring the charges were dropped because you didn’t commit the offenses. For the Navy, the wait before you can ship to boot-camp is one year from the date of the DUI arrest. If he told you two years, it is likely he determined you are not best qualified due to the DUI, the drug offenses, and the fact you are prior service. To be sure, you’d have to ask him/her.

  4. Sam says:

    Good afternoon Sir. I’m hoping you can answer a couple questions and clear some things up for me. I have a Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, speeding ticket, and failure to appear charge on my record. All happened in one incident, pulled over for speeding with friends who had the paraphernalia, officer searched the vehicle and gave all of us the charge and I got the speeding ticket. I didn’t appear in court and didn’t have the money to pay it off on the court date. I did however pay it all off a month later. This was in 2016.

    Fast forward to February 2020 I got a 89 on the ASVAB, passed an additional test for Nuke, and my recruiter said I’d have to write a statement for a waiver which it was approved. At MEPS I failed my color blind test which disqualified me for the Nuke program. The only contract they offered me that day was CS, which I didn’t sign. I talked to the Chief at the liaison office and he said I should schedule to take the DLAB for a CTI contract but when my recruiter submitted my paper work it was denied because of my 2016 charge. I then asked about getting a HM contract and again was denied.

    My question is who approved my waiver pre MEPS and why is it now being denied for other contracts? My second choice of rate is HM or one of the CT rates.

  5. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Sam,

    An adverse adjudication for a drug offense renders you ineligible for program waiver consideration for all the CT ratings, and also for HM and HMDA; HM-ATF would consider a single marijuana offense, but, sadly, you must have normal color perception to be eligible.

    The “waiver” you had at the start was not actually a waiver — it was a permission to process further (they expected to consider and approve the waiver); however, they cannot approve a waiver until all other qualifications are met, and that cannot happen until after the physical.

    Recruiting command does not control what ratings require what qualifications. Those standards are developed by the individual rating program managers — they work for BUPERS. Some things can receive program waivers, but for the ratings you are interested in, those issues cannot receive a program waiver as outlined in COMNAVCRUITCOMINST 1130.8K (change 3) pgs. 218/219.

    I wish I had better news. On this Navy ratings and programs page, there are links to each, and on those pages it will say if normal color is required, and whether a drug offense can be considered.

  6. Jo says:

    Hello. I am vying for a recruitment as a naval officer. If I applied for a police department and I’m on an eligibility list will the navy be able or want to see this application in the background investigation? I’m not sure if this hurts it helps my competitiveness in either pipeline. Thoughts?

  7. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Jo,

    The things which made you competitive for the police department may also be considered positive for the military, but by itself, the fact you made an eligibility list would be irrelevant.

    What does this have to do with drug waiver possibilities?

  8. Sam says:

    Good afternoon, This is Sam again from the March 24th comment. I’ve gotten some contract offers in the SeaBee rates which I qualify for and my recruiter was also saying after a year or so I could put in a packet to request a job change and and I could possibly get into the HM rate. My question is how rare or frequent that happens where sailors re-rate to a different job? Also since I do have a 2016 Drug Paraphernalia charge would that still disqualify me from going into HM after already being in the Navy for a year or more?

  9. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Sam,

    I have no idea what the future holds or what a rating community manager (ECM) might consider in years to come. That said, DO NOT join the Navy with a belief you can switch to another rating. When you enlist, keep the mindset that you will at least complete your first enlistment in the rating you joined for. Although remotely possible, changing your rating isn’t a given. Too many factors to consider — if your current rating is undermanned, it is highly unlikely your own ECM can justify letting you go. Let’s suppose your ECM does let you go, but the HM ECM might not be able to accept you due to the manning level — they might already be at or near 100% for the year-group you are in at the time you wish to switch.

    Yes, changing ratings is possible; I for one did it after I had ten years in (was an Electronic Technician and switched to Navy Counselor), and everything may work out for you, but don’t make that chance your driving force. If you join the Navy, do it in a job you could see yourself serving in, and if you can someday change, then consider it a bonus. Don’t join because you think you will switch to the rating you want after a few of years because the chances of that happening is actually very slight.

  10. Alex says:

    Hello,
    1. I see that I can submit a waiver for previous (>2 years) one time use of LSD and ~10 time use of MJ. Does this waiver block any career fields? I am asking from the perspective of SEAL contract.

    2. Also, are you aware of why the Air Force (apparently) does not allow any waivers for the LSD use, no matter the time past vs Navy allowing waivers? Is there information available to verify this myself? I cannot seem to find any up to date documentation for the Navy or the Air force? (thank you for being a conduit for this hard to find info)

    3. In reading the well publicized story of Adam Brown (Navy SEAL with extensive use of drug history and criminal activity), it does seem that there is truth behind the statement “there’s a waiver for everything”. If there is a disqualifying factor, but the individual demonstrates strong aptitude otherwise and is aiming at an undermanned rate, does it eventually come down to someone high in a chain of command saying “okay, as a whole person, I decide to waive this individual” regardless of what a recruiter might say?

    Thank you

  11. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Alex,

    Any history of illegal drug use, other than experimental use of marijuana, renders one not eligible for waiver consideration for the following Navy ratings: Nuke program, AC, AIRC, AIRR, EOD, GM, HM, HMDA, ND, SB, MA, MN (MN will not consider a waiver for prior MJ use either), CSS, ITS, MT, SECF, MMS, LSS, and YNS.

    I do not know whether or not the Air Force will consider such a waiver, but it would not surprise me at all if they didn’t.

    When Adam Brown joined the Navy, the Special Warfare Operator rating did not exist. SEAL Teams at that time were made up of various source ratings. He enlisted in one of the source ratings with an enlistment waiver. He was in the Navy for a couple of years before he applied to join the Teams. Back then, a person could not join to be a SEAL directly. In 2006, when the Navy created the SO rating, the SPECWAR Enlisted Community Manager (ECM) had to put together enlistment requirements for recruiting command to follow when considering applicants for the rating. In those requirements, they disallowed a waiver option for a history of controlled substance use. About a year and a half ago, the ECM did change one disqualifier — prior to this change, any MJ adversely adjudicated offense rendered one not eligible — the change now allows a single offense consideration, but they did not budge on the controlled substance use. I have no idea what the policies may be in the future, but other than the change I mentioned, they have been steadfast since 2006.

  12. Alex says:

    Thank you for the quick response.
    So in a case like this, there is no “whole person” card I could try and build based on qualifications (physical, education, etc)?
    Also, after your clarification on Adam Brown’s situation, is it possible to enlist in some rate that allows drug waiver, and then cross into BUD/s after already being in the Navy?

  13. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Alex,

    It doesn’t appear so. The Report of SO Rating Conversion Screening form attached to MILPERSMAN 1220-300 states, “…was screened for application for assignment to SEAL training following the procedures specified in reference (a).”

    Reference (a) is the Navy recruiting manual.

    That said, the article also states, “Except where specified “no waiver,” BUPERS-324 may waive one or more entry requirements if the applicant is considered otherwise qualified.” If that is the only issue you have, and you do well in service prior to application for conversion, they may waiver that one requirement as the article itself doesn’t address it specifically as “no waiver”.

    That is my interpretation; I could be wrong.

  14. Jim [Last name redacted for privacy] says:

    NCCM(Ret)

    I am retired naval aviator (O5) now attorney and one of my colleagues at work approached me with an enlistment question regarding his son. His son is interested in enlisting as a Navy SEAL, but he experimentally used MJ in high school (no citations or legal record). He disclosed this to his recruiter and his recruiter advised him indicate no illegal drug use on his application. He is concerned with both lying on his application and any follow up with his high school friends during his SSBI for his TS clearance. I told him this could also be considered fraudulent enlistment. I have read the comments, and it would seem that experimental use of MJ could receive a waiver. Is the recruiter trying to help him out or does this simply help the recruiters quota because of the waiver? I recommend that he tell the truth and seek a waiver. Is this sound advise?

  15. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Jim,

    Yes, experimental use of marijuana requires a program waiver, considered by the local commanding officer, for the Warrior Challenge ratings. Your advice to tell the truth is the absolute right course to take. His and your concerns are valid.

    Having an applicant withhold this information is not helping the applicant out, nor does it affect the recruiter’s quota. Such waivers would be fairly routine. Laziness is the only reason I can fathom; it certainly isn’t the applicant’s best interest.

  16. Kayla says:

    Hello so I recently went to MEPS for the navy and failed my drug test. Is there any way I could get a wavier? Or could enlist with a different branch?

  17. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Kayla,

    The Navy will not consider a waiver for anyone who tested positive on the MEPS drug test. As to whether the other branches will, you would have to ask them.

  18. Miguel says:

    Hello, I am currently in the process of enlisting in the Navy. I am waiting to go to MEPS for the second time to take my physical. This past September I voluntarily entered a private rehab program for smoking marijuana. A lie was told for me to enter the rehab, It was said that I was dependent on both alcohol and marijuana. I am now clean and no longer smoke, nor am or were dependent on alcohol at anytime. I mentioned this to my recruiter officer and I was told to not bring it up or say anything at MEPs because I can pass the drug test. I was also told to not worry about the security clearance. Is that right? Do you have any advice about what I should do before getting called in to MEPS? Thank you

  19. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Migel,

    Do not lie or withhold information. Make sure you supply all the rehab records for submittal to MEPS so they can be reviewed and considered. Within the comments of many articles written in this blog, you will find numerous examples where people were told to withhold information only to be found out later — each time they stated the recruiter told them to not mention it. That excuse WILL NOT help you; the recruiter will deny ever saying it, and you are the one signing a document that you didn’t withhold anything. DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME!

  20. Ozzy says:

    I submitted an sf-86 to a government agency in 2017 that I unfortunately did not get fully hired with. In this sf-86 I disclosed information in regards to my substance use. It involved the experimental use of marijuana and other substances that would be considered worse than marijuana.This use did not dq me from this particular agency but it appears that it will dq me from navy recruitment (I think…). Now, I have never been charged or arrested and I do not have a record of any kind but I did fill out the sf-86 so my information is out there. I spoke with a recruiter and he told me not to worry about it and I should be good but for some reason I don’t buy it. Could I receive a waiver for this use? Should I tell MEPS about my history even though I don’t have a record but it could dq from the military? Will they even look at my previously submitted sf-86? Im not sure what to do bc it feels like I put my foot in my mouth by telling the truth to this agency and because it did not work out with them it seems like I am now ineligible for any other service. Thank you for your time and your response!

  21. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Ozzy,

    List all your drug usage when joining. A general enlistment drug abuse waiver for use of controlled substances is possible depending on how long ago the use occurred. The waiver authority will take many factors into account when considering the waiver such as the frequency of use, work history, education, ASVAB score, etc.

  22. Bailey says:

    I know this forum says no more than 1 MJ misdemeanor, but I sadly have two possession arrests for concentrated cannabis on a high school campus from when I was 15 that are 1 month apart. I was very stupid at the time and have changed drastically and have been clean for 2 and a half years. I want to get a SEAL challenge contract and I have very competitive PST scores and have been training very hard for the past year. Is there any way I could get approved a waiver or am I permanently disqualified? I could get a few letters of recommendation from some Master Chiefs in the Navy I know from the Sea Cadet program I’m in. Any response will be greatly appreciated.

  23. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Bailey,

    Program waiver consideration for any of the warrior challenge programs with two MJ charges are not authorized.

  24. Bailey says:

    I was never charged, never went to court, it was just arrests that ended up being sealed for good behavior through a diversion program, does this make a difference?

  25. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Bailey,

    No. Pretrial intervention is an adverse adjudication — for military waiver purposes, that is the same as being found guilty by a jury.

  26. Seth says:

    I have a question I would like answered if able. 8 months ago I went to the navy recruiting office and was given a drug test there. I passed everything and the recruiter knew I had prior use of marijuana. Although I passed the one at the recruit station and I was clean for 3 months I was told I was in the green to go to meps. Unfortunately the drug test at meps said I still had thc metabolites in my system and I failed. I was informed by the recuiter and some research that after 6 months I would be re-eligable to try again. Howevr I contacted the office again in 8 months and was told that even though a waiver is applicable for me they the navy will not sign off on it. Ive really put my all into making my life better and have been clean for over a year just so I could retry. Now I’m really dissapointed. My question is is there any way I can receive a waiver or convince the navy I’m completely done with any drug usage and want to commit to the navy as I have been waiting anxiously for almost a year to retry?

  27. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Seth,

    The Navy will not entertain a waiver for any failed MEPS drug test. No exceptions, and has been that way for a couple of decades. You may want to try another branch of service.

  28. G White says:

    If a recruit used weed a number of times only in high school but was never arrested or has any record of it for any reason, could they still be in EOD? Is there a difference between using it in high school or in college if it has been several years since using? Where is the line drawn for someone who has no record of usage and it has been a long time? How much usage and how long ago? Thanks

  29. NCCM(Ret) says:

    G White,

    An applicant with a history of marijuana use is eligible for a program waiver for the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal rating.

  30. AJ says:

    I plan on attempting to enlist in the Navy to get an HM-ATF contract towards the end of the year. When I do I’ll have a college degree and should meet PST requirements. I don’t have any legal convictions for anything besides two traffic citations. When I was 12-13 years old I experimented with marijuana perhaps 7 or 8 times and once more in 2017, but never again since. I’ve read through many posts and a waiver if needed for MJ seems easy enough; however, when I was also 13 I experimented briefly 3-4 times with a cough medicine. I learned if I took a large dose I felt different, again I was quite young. The final time I tried it I was caught by my parents and taken to the hospital as a precautionary step, and the hospital admitted me for the night to observe me. I stayed for a couple hours before I was released. Now I know the active ingredient that caused that effect was dextromethorphan. Currently medicines containing that drug do not fall under controlled substance laws and is on the same level as Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Will this particular usage cause problems down the line or even be an abrupt wall in enlistment maybe not to the whole of the navy but HM ratings specifically? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  31. Brian says:

    Hi, Question regarding criminal history and joining the Military. Specifically Army National Guard. Is a misdemeanor drug possession with intent a non-waiverable offense. Even if it has been expunged?

    Thank you

  32. NCCM(Ret) says:

    AJ,

    The medical records for your hospital visit need to be submitted for a medical document review, but if as you state, that should not be a disqualification for HM as it did not involve a controlled substance. The marijuana usage is a disqualification for HM, but a program waiver is possible.

  33. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Brian,

    No waiver is authorized for any drug offense that involved any trafficking related activity. That fact does not change if the offense is later expunged, pardoned, etc.

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