From Washington to main street, changes to U.S. drug policy are evident. CBD products line the aisles at supermarkets and convenience stores. And emboldened by a new law that permits hemp cultivation, states across America are considering the crop as a new agricultural cornerstone.
Those changes do not, however, extend to the U.S. military. The Department of Defense issued a stern warning to its servicemembers this week: steer clear of hemp-derived products such as cannabidiol, better known as CBD.
“It’s completely forbidden for use by any service member in any of the services at this point of time,” said Patricia Deuster, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, as quoted by Military.com.
The warning comes on the heels of similar guidelines issued by the nation’s sea services, with the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines all warning members that, despite changes to state and federal law, the military policy remains the same.
The need to clarify the policy stems in part from the Agriculture Improvement Act, better known as the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the regulated industrial production of hemp, a move that inspired several states to pursue cultivation of the crop. It’s also resulted in scores of CBD-based products—from chocolate to soap—to hit the market.
“It’s a real conundrum, and it’s going to be a major issue for the military because it is available [nearly everywhere],” Deuster said. “You go into any store, and you can find gummy bears with a supplement fact panel on it.”
The legislation prompted the Department of Navy to issue a statement earlier this month directing sailors and marines “not to use hemp-derived products.”
“Navy policy has not been affected by the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, and all products derived from hemp or marijuana are still prohibited,” the directive reads. “While currently deemed legal for civilians in some states, all hemp and CBD products are strictly prohibited for use by Sailors.”
The clarification to military policy serves as another reminder of the imbalance that is likely to exist in various corners of American society as the drug laws are reconsidered. Cannabis has been legalized both for recreational and medicinal use in states across the country, even as it remains banned under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, creating an opening for the fledgling CBD industry. But members of the military are being advised that such products could result in a costly drug test.
“The use of products containing or derived from hemp, may interfere with the Navy and Marine Corps Drug Testing Program and result in the reporting of unlawful THC levels in Sailors and Marines,” Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer declared in a guidance issued this month.
Sailors and Marines, Spencer warned, “cannot rely on the packaging and labeling of hemp products in determining whether the product contains THC concentrations that could cause a positive urinalysis result.”