Why CBD is a Criminal Offense in the Military

Matt Weeks August 4, 2020 1 comment

The U.S. government has recently made consuming CBD in the military a punishable offense.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On July 27th 2020, the U.S. House Passed a defense amendment which would legalize CBD in the Military, should it eventually be passed into law. RxLeaf is watching the situation closely and will update if as the story progresses.

The new rules, which were put in place to clarify the military’s position on hemp following its legalization by the 2018 Farm Bill, prohibits members from consuming any substance made from hemp in the military — including CBD and even hemp burgers.

It’s a policy that has many service members shaking their heads and even more scrambling to replace a medicine that many veterans claim has been helpful.

The DoD vs. CBD

Why the crackdown on CBD in the military? It actually has very little to do with CBD and more to do with its mind-altering cousin, THC.

The Department of Defense has no problem with service members consuming CBD. The substance causes no bad side effects and helps with a number of maladies. The DoD’s problem is with the negligible amount of THC that could be contained within CBD products and service members’ inability to know for sure how much THC there is within any product.

The first point is questionable. The DoD believes that service members who consume CBD could be ingesting up to 0.3 percent THC, per the legal rule for hemp products. Service members who take enough CBD could theoretically be ingesting enough THC to produce psychoactive effects that could make doing their jobs more difficult.

In theory, that’s true. But, it would take an awful lot of oil with 0.3 percent THC before its effects were felt. Far more than anyone would realistically consume. The second problem the DoD has with CBD has more merit. The substance is poorly regulated.

cbd in the military represented byhand pulling cbd oil out of dropper

No Medicinal Value?

The FDA refuses to certify CBD’s health claims despite mounting medical evidence and the proliferation of pharmaceutical CBD. Why? As a federal agency, the FDA endorses cannabis’ schedule I status, which means it has no medical value.

So, instead of approving CBD to treat headaches, nausea, tremors, seizures, anxiety, and more, the FDA simply shrugs. If it were to issue approval, that would mean the agency would test CBD products and independently verify each product’s THC level. Consumers would have better faith in a choosing medicine.

Even without granting approval for health claims, the FDA could still better regulate the industry. It already tests products and sends out sternly worded letters to offending companies. So why won’t it go so far as to officially approve CBD products?

There is reason to believe that choice is political. The FDA itself has promised it is close to regulating the industry, but refuses to offer a timeline of when it may happen. In the meantime, President Donald Trump has appointed five directors of the agency during his time in office. That’s an astronomically high number. Since its inception over one hundred years ago, the FDA has been led by only twenty-four people, and Trump appointed one-fifth of them during his three years in office.

There is clearly something very political happening at the FDA.

Drug Testing and CBD

The U.S. military uses urine tests to screen service members for THC. As drug tests go, these do not work exceptionally well. These are blunt instruments unable to differentiate between service members who consumed THC directly before shift and those that used it during downtime.

The U.S. government could do a lot more for its fighting forces by developing more accurate THC tests. Sadly, it is possible to test positive for THC by only using CBD products — even those within the limited 0.3 percent. While it probably won’t turn on alarms for people taking small amounts of CBD, for many service members it’s not worth the risk.

There is a bright spot, however.

The military specifically forbids even CBD topicals, but it has been unclear whether those will show up in urine tests. Fortunately, a study published in Forensic Science International (2017) found that drug screens for THC repeatedly came out negative after consumers applied THC-containing topicals to their skin.1)Hess, C., Krämer, M., & Madea, B. (2017). Topical application of THC containing products is not able to cause positive cannabinoid finding in blood or urine. Forensic science international272, 68–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2017.01.008

Not only that, THC did not even show up on blood tests. The subjects were tested every two to four hours over for three days and slathered on heaps of the THC product.

cbd in the military represented by soldier from behind holding his daughter who has an american flag

A Better Way

The DoD claims it instills policies that keep America’s military forces in fighting shape. And while it’s true that THC could slow reaction times, CBD could actually help service members focus better, heal faster, and stay healthier.

Instead of outlawing hemp, the U.S. federal government should either produce better drug tests, regulate CBD more rigidly, or produce its own non-THC version of popular CBD products.

As it stands now, outlawing hemp while still allowing alcohol and cigarettes is hypocritical. U.S. service members deserve better.

References   [ + ]

1.Hess, C., Krämer, M., & Madea, B. (2017). Topical application of THC containing products is not able to cause positive cannabinoid finding in blood or urine. Forensic science international272, 68–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2017.01.008
Author avatar

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

1 comment

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    Thomas dubuque

    I am a veteran and also use CBd rubs externally for arthritic and painfull joints with no thc in it and works greatly in reducing pain. In my back knees Abd elbows sinc i work. In fast food and was a trained. Military. Cook and have to stand and lift heavy items for long periods of time it helps alot than killing my liver and kidneys with vast amounts of ibuprofen and other types of pain releaver and they don’t always last long verses cbd rubs with out. The thc in it but thats just me cant speak for other people who use or have used it

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