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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.

2,863 Responses to “Navy Drug Waivers”

  1. NCCM(Ret) says:


    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:


    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:


    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:


    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:


    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:

    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:


    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:


    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.

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Unless otherwise noted, content written by Thomas Goering, NCCM USN(RET).

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