In the year and a half since hemp was federally legalized, various military branches have issued guidance, broadly prohibiting active duty members from using products derived from the crop despite the legal status change. But a little-noticed memo is helping to explain the trend.
In February, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced a new policy barring all active and reserve service members from using hemp products, including CBD. The memo acknowledges that hemp was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, but it said the risk of exposure to products potentially containing excess THC is too great.
“These legal changes and the resulting introduction of hemp products containing up to 0.3 percent THC in the marketplace create a serious risk to the viability of the military drug testing program for a number of reasons,” Under Secretary of Defense Matthew Donovan said.
The memo, which was first noted by the Uniformed Services University in March but largely went under the radar until DOD’s Operation Supplement Safety program tweeted a link to it on Monday, states that regular use of lawful hemp products could result in a positive urinalysis test for THC. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not certify THC concentrations in CBD products that are widely available in the marketplace, it says.
“Consequently, Service members cannot rely on the packaging and labeling of hemp products regarding whether the amount of THC contained in the product could cause a positive urinalysis result,” the memo continues.
— OPSS.ORG (@opssinfo) June 22, 2020
The department also said that because so many hemp products are being introduced, it isn’t practical for them to develop a list of individual brands that meet their standards.
“Since it is not possible to differentiate between THC derived from legal hemp products and illicit marijuana, and these products could cause or contribute to a THC positive urinalysis result, I find that the use of hemp products could effectively undermine the Department’s ability to identify illicit THC use,” Donovan wrote.
“Accordingly, I find that protecting the integrity of the drug testing program requires the prohibition of the use of all hemp products, subject to the exclusions set out in this memorandum, even though such a prohibition will, in some instances, extend to products the normal use of which could not cause a positive urinalysis result. I specifically find a military necessity to require a prohibition of this scope to ensure the military drug testing program continues to be able to identify the use of marijuana, which is prohibited, and to spare the U.S. military the risks and adverse effects marijuana use has on the mission readiness of individual Service members and military units.”
The memo instructed military branches to issue guidance to their ranks highlighting the hemp ban by March 1. Failure to comply with the ban would be considered a “general intent offense,” meaning that service members wouldn’t be punished if they consumed a product “without knowledge that the product was made or derived from hemp, including CBD, where that lack of knowledge is reasonable.”
It also notes that service members can still use “durable goods containing hemp” such as rope and clothing. Further, FDA-approved drugs derived from cannabis such as Epidiolex are exempted from the ban.
This memo codifies what seems to have been an informal policy that led to a series of updates from various military branches on hemp and CBD policy.
DOD reaffirmed that CBD is off limits to service members, regardless of the federal legalization of hemp and its derivatives, in earlier notices published at the beginning of the year.
Both DOD and the Air Force have previously weighed in on the issue, stipulating that members are prohibited from using hemp-derived CBD.
Last year, the Navy reminded their ranks that they’re barred from using CBD no matter its legality. The Coast Guard said that sailors can’t use marijuana or visit state-legal dispensaries. And NASA, which is not part of the military, warned that CBD products could contain unauthorized THC concentrations that could cost employees their jobs if they fail a drug test.
Another factor that could have influenced these policy updates is that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released guidance to federal agency drug program coordinators last year that outlined concerns about THC turning up in CBD products.
Read the DOD memo banning us of hemp products by military members below:
Photo by Kimzy Nanney.