The Army has insisted it is not relaxing its drug rules, after it was revealed that new recruits will not be dismissed if they are found to have used drugs within their first 14 weeks of training.
It comes amid a chronic shortage of new personnel to the armed forces.
The Mail on Sunday reported that instead of being discharged, young soldiers-in-training who are found to have taken drugs will instead be given a second chance and just moved back.
According to the newspaper, an internal document said: "Young recruits in the first 14 weeks of training who fail on their first drugs test and meet the retention criteria will be allowed to continue with their training but will be 'back-squadded' and will face further drugs testing.
"Should they fail on two occasions, they will be discharged.
"The Army recruits from all parts of society and it recognises that some soldiers come from a background where recreational drug use can be common.
"It is therefore appropriate to combine strict regulation with a focus on education and nurture for new recruits."
Trained soldiers will still be discharged the first time they are found to have taken illegal drugs.
The move was welcomed by Leap UK, a network of law enforcement officials campaigning for drug policy reform.
“The army have accepted the fact that drugs are not going away and adjusted their policy accordingly,” the organisation tweeted. “Time for our politicians to follow suit.”
Former army chiefs also supported the move.
“This is a rather sad reflection on our society today,” said General The Lord Dannatt to the Mail.
“This is a societal problem which the Army has to deal with. So in these circumstances I think it makes sense to give a second chance to recruits as part of their training process. But the Army must never tolerate drug taking in field formation units.”
General Sir Mike Jackson, said: “When we are dealing with young people of otherwise good character, I am entirely comfortable with them being given a second chance at this stage of their careers if they fail a drugs test.”
An Army spokesman said: "More than 8,000 people joined the Regular Army last year and since this April applications are more than 20 per cent higher compared to the same period in 2016/17.
"There has been no relaxation of the longstanding zero-tolerance policy on drug misuse."