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Navy Bans Sailors From Using CBD Despite Federal Hemp Legalization, New Memo Says

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The Navy released a notice on Wednesday making clear that sailors are prohibited from possessing or using hemp-derived CBD, even though the crop and its derivatives are no longer federally controlled substances.

The military branch emphasized that it has a “zero tolerance” drug policy and said that even with the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp, “Navy policy has not been affected” and “all products derived from hemp or marijuana are still prohibited.”

“While currently deemed legal for civilians in some states, all hemp and CBD products are strictly prohibited for use by Sailors.”

Part of the reasoning, according to the memo, is that CBD products are generally not being regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may contain THC that could appear on a drug screening.

“Consequently, Sailors and Marines 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,” the policy says.

Testing positive for THC is grounds for an “Other Than Honorable” discharge that could impact veteran benefits and employment opportunities, the Navy said.

“Substance abuse by members of the Armed Forces is incompatible with military standards of good order and discipline, performance, and operational readiness,” the policy states. “It is the goal of the Department of the Navy to eliminate substance abuse.

“Sailors and Marines are prohibited from knowingly using products made or derived from hemp (as defined in 7 U.S.C. 1639o), including cannabidiol (CBD), regardless of the products THC concentration, claimed or actual, and regardless of whether such product may lawfully be bought, sold, and used under the law applicable to civilians. Use means to inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body. Use includes the knowing use of hemp products designed to penetrate through the skin layer, including but not limited to transdermal patches.”

However, there appears to be some gray area because while products meant to penetrate skin are banned, there’s an exception in the policy for “topical products such as shampoos, conditioners, lotions, or soaps.” It also doesn’t apply to the use of FDA-approved drugs such as the CBD-based prescription medication Epidiolex.

The Navy also reports positive drug tests to the FBI for the purposes of including that information in the federal criminal background checks system, meaning sailors who are flagged could have applications for firearm purchases denied.

“It is the responsibility of every Sailor to ensure that he or she is diligent in avoiding intentional or accidental exposure to THC and other prohibited substances,” Navy wrote in a press release about the policy.

It’s not clear how Navy would be able to enforce its anti-CBD policy if the products don’t contain THC, or not enough to show up on a drug test. Conventional drug screening tests are designed to detect metabolites of THC, not CBD.

The Navy also released a pair of fact sheets on hemp and CBD to provide additional clarity, including answers to some frequently asked questions:

Q: I’m stationed in a state with legalized recreational marijuana. Am I allowed to use marijuana or CBD products?

No. The local law does not apply to Sailors as it relates to these substances. Navy policy is zero-tolerance for substance abuse, and it was not affected by the 2018 Farm Bill and its provisions regarding hemp- and marijuana derived products. Using these products could cause a THC positive urinalysis result, which can negatively impact your Navy career and future benefits.

Q: Am I allowed to use CBD products that are labelled “THC-free?”

No. CBD products are not allowed under Navy’s drug policy. These products are not regulated or inspected by the FDA, so they may still contain THC even if their labels claim otherwise.

Q: What would happen if I am accidentally exposed to something that has CBD in it and then test positive for THC?

It is your responsibility to know what is in the products or foods you consume or to which you are exposed. Accidental ingestion is not a legitimate excuse for a drug positive urinalysis. Unless you have a valid prescription to justify a positive result, you are subject to the full range of consequences from any drug-positive urinalysis result.

State-level marijuana legalization efforts, coupled with the federal legalization of hemp and hemp-derived products, seem to have generated some confusion that’s made it necessary for military branches to issue guidance. The Coast Guard issued an order last month stating that active duty members are barred from using cannabis or even entering a marijuana shop even if the business is legal in the state.

But the scope of the Navy memo goes a step further by banning sailors from using a non-intoxicating product that one-in-seven Americans now use, primarily for therapeutic purposes.

Coast Guard Issues Order Barring Active Duty Members From Visiting Marijuana Shops

Photo courtesy of Flickr/U.S. Navy.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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Andrew Yang Peddles Marijuana-Themed Presidential Campaign Merchandise

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2020 candidate Andrew Yang announced on Saturday that his campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination is rolling out a line of marijuana-themed merch.

The limited edition products blend Yang’s love of mathematics with his support for cannabis reform. A t-shirt being offered for $30 simply says, “Math. Money. Marijuana.” And a now-sold-out baseball cap says “Math” on the front and displays a cannabis leaf on back. There’s also a bumper sticker that says, “Legalize Marijuana.”

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

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Buttigieg Pledges To Decriminalize Possession Of All Drugs In First Term As President

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South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a comprehensive plan on Friday that calls for “decriminalizing all drug possession” in his first presidential term as a means to combat the opioid epidemic and treat addiction as a public health, rather than criminal justice, issue.

Decriminalization is just one action the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said he’d pursue in order to reform the country’s mental health care system and bolster substance abuse treatment. His plan also includes proposals to reduce sentences for drug offenses other than possession, increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone and make it easier to implement syringe exchange programs.

Buttigieg’s “Healing and Belonging in America” plan emphasizes the need to divert people suffering from addiction away from prisons and into treatment. He said he’d accomplish that by expanding diversionary programs and evidence-based training “for drug courts, mental health courts, and other alternatives to incarceration for justice-involved persons.”

The goal of decriminalization and diversion is to reduce “the number of people incarcerated due to mental illness or substance use by 75 percent in the first term.”

Under his plan, sentencing reform for drug offenses other than possession would be applied retroactively and coupled with expungements for past convictions. Buttigieg pointed to research demonstrating that “incarceration for drug offenses has no effect on drug misuse, drug arrests, or overdose deaths” and instead “actually increases the rate of overdose deaths.”

“We cannot incarcerate ourselves out of this public health problem.”

“To ensure that people with a mental illness or substance use disorder can heal, we will decriminalize these conditions,” the proposal states. “When someone is undergoing a crisis or is caught using a drug, they should be treated by a health professional rather than punished in a jail cell.”

“All presidential candidates should join Pete Buttigieg in recognizing that the criminalization of people for their drug use is wrong and simply bad policy,” Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Action, said in a press release. “Possession of drugs for personal use is the single most arrested offense in the United States, eclipsing arrest rates for any other offense. With overdose numbers skyrocketing and entire communities, disproportionately black or brown, suffering from criminalization, it’s time for policymakers to shift gears. Taking an evidence-based, health-centered approach to address this crisis is not only true leadership – it’s common sense.”

The mayor also made harm reduction policies a key component of his strategy. He said take-home naloxone programs would be expanded to all 50 states by 2024 and that harm reduction services would be expanded “to reduce overdose deaths and the spread of infectious diseases related to needle sharing.”

The plan would make naloxone “broadly available in order to reverse overdoses” and remove “legislative and regulatory restrictions on the use of federal funds for syringe service programs.”

Buttigieg said the federal government should provide funding for state and local health departments to purchase the medication, make sure that it’s “available in public spaces and workplaces” similar to first aid kids and encourage “co-prescribing of naloxone with opioids, either by individual physicians or direct dispensing by pharmacists.”

Existing federal law makes it difficult to establish syringe exchange programs, in part because federal funds can’t be used to buy needles. The restrictions “hamper state and local responses, both because they limit resources and because they convey a negative message about the value of these programs, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that they can prevent transmission of HIV and hepatitis.”

In addition to lifting those barriers, the candidate said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “would also work with states to remove any criminal liability for those participating in” syringe exchange programs.

“Harm reduction programs are a critical part of any effective response to the opioid and injection drug use crisis. They minimize the negative impact of drug use without encouraging it, while reducing other side effects of drug use. In particular, this means access to syringe service programs for people who inject drugs, that link them to treatment, and provides access to sterile syringes. These programs help prevent transmission of HIV, viral hepatitis, and other infectious diseases associated with needle sharing, and reduce overdoses by deploying medication such as naloxone that help reverse the effects of opioids.”

One harm reduction policy that didn’t make the cut in Buttigieg’s plan is safe injection sites, where people could use illicit drugs under the supervision of medical professionals who could reverse overdoses and recommend treatment options. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who are also running for the Democratic nomination, both proposed legalizing such facilities as part of criminal justice reform plans they released this month.

“Decades of failed mental health and addiction policy, coupled with mass incarceration that criminalized mental illness and drug use, have left us with a mental health and addiction care system so broken that today there are more people with serious mental illness in prisons than in treatment facilities,” Buttigieg said.

The candidate also made ending incarceration for drug possession—as well as legalizing marijuana—central principles of his previously released criminal justice reform plan, which he released last month.

But while the prior plan did not explicitly describe the move as “decriminalizing” drugs, even though advocates commonly use that word to refer to policies that remove the threat of being imprisoned for possession, the new document does use that terminology—signaling a shift in clarity as Buttigieg continues to develop his campaign messaging.

In other instances, he borrowed language from his criminal justice reform plan, specifically as it concerns how criminalizing drug use can increase rates of overdose, for his mental health proposal.

“Despite equal rates of use, Black Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for using marijuana,” the criminal justice plan states. “Research shows that incarceration for drug offenses has no effect on drug misuse, drug arrests, or overdose deaths. In fact, some studies show that incarceration actually increases the rate of overdose deaths.”

Buttigieg mentioned that, as with drug offenses, black people are also more likely to die from overdoses. And that’s due to “the current broken system that criminalizes mental illness and addiction” that was “built during the crack epidemic of the 1980s.”

Elizabeth Warren’s Criminal Justice Plan Involves Legalizing Marijuana And Safe Injection Sites

This story was updated to include comment from the Drug Policy Action.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Gage Skidmore.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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White House Drug Officials Say Legal Marijuana Is Up To States

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Two top federal drug officials, including the White House drug czar, recently said that marijuana legalization should be left up to states.

The comments stand out coming from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which has historically played a central role in defending blanket federal prohibition.

Jim Carroll, the Trump-appointed drug czar who directs the administration’s drug policies, told Fox 59 reporter Kayla Sullivan that he considers legalization a states’ right issue. He added that he’d like to see targeted education campaigns concerning cannabis use during pregnancy and underage usage as well as research into impaired driving.

It’s a particularly notable position given that federal law stipulates that the drug czar is required to “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance” listed as Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, including marijuana.

Even if Carroll’s remarks arguably don’t directly violate that statute, they are significant in that he doesn’t seem to have taken the opportunity to proactively oppose state legalization efforts when asked by a reporter.

Anne Hazlett, senior advisor at ONDCP, also weighed in on cannabis legalization on Wednesday, telling CentralIllinoisProud.com that marijuana legalization is “a state decision.”

“Marijuana is an ongoing challenge that is being addressed in many of our states,” she said. “This is a state decision, and we would like to see additional research done so that these decisions being made at a state level are being made in a manor that is fully informed.”

Though the comments from Carroll and Hazlett seem to reflect an evolving understanding of the federal government’s role in imposing prohibition on the states, the ONDCP director has previously made clear he’s not enthusiastic about the burgeoning legal market.

During a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing in May, Carroll raised concerns about THC potency in marijuana products, saying “the marijuana we have today is nothing like what it was when I was a kid, when I was in high school.”

“Back then the THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes you high, was in the teens in terms of the percentage,” he said. “Now what we’re seeing is twice that, three times that, in the plant.”

He also said that more research is needed and that the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as the Department of Health and Human Services are “working hard to make sure that we understand the impact of legalization of marijuana on the body.”

Federally Funded Journal Exposes How Marijuana Prohibition Puts Consumers At Risk

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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