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Little-publicized memo outlines military ban on CBD and hemp-based products

Jun 25, 2020

With the heavily-hyped and much-needed CBD industry regulations from the Food and Drug Administration nowhere in sight, some Americans will have to look to another branch of the federal government for guidance. On Monday, the Pentagon released a memo stating that members of the United States armed services would face criminal penalties if found using any products containing cannabidiol or hemp.

According to a report published in Military.com, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Matthew Donovan ordered all military branches to issue general orders or regulations last February that would prohibit hemp and hemp-derived CBD products under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Donovan gave the services a March 1 deadline to complete the action.

In the memo, dated February 26 of this year, Donovan acknowledged hemp’s legal status but worried that THC content, however minimal, could pose a risk to active duty military and other members. 

“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,” wrote Donovan. He cited the fact that some products may contain more THC than what appears on the label and concerns over positive urinalysis tests as well. 

“I find that the use of hemp products could effectively undermine the Department's ability to identify illicit THC use,” he continued.

And while Donovan did acknowledge that plenty of CBD brands are THC-free, he concluded that their abundance on the market makes it difficult to distinguish between the two, making it near-impossible for the military to produce a list of approved products.

“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,” noted the memo.

Though the memo went into effect several months ago, it’s only now been brought to light thanks to the Department of Defense’s Operation Supplement Safety program, which sent out a link to it via Twitter on Monday night. “All products containing #hemp are prohibited for use by Military Service Members,” they wrote in a straightforward, almost nonchalant way.

But for many in the military, a ban on CBD is nothing new. Various branches of the armed services have issued prohibitive guidance on cannabidiol since the President first signed the Farm Bill legalizing hemp in 2018. If anything, the emergence of the memo clarifies what many have known for a while now.

However, it was evident by the reaction to the news on social media that a fair number of the military — both active duty and veterans — disagree with the rule. 

“The military is still pushing back against CBD products including lotions, pain-relieving oils, sleeping pills, coffee additives, and candy,” wrote one veteran on social media who also works in the industry. “There are countless number of studies showing the power of CBD over prescription drugs.”

Those sentiments were echoed throughout the web, as many questioned the federal government’s rationale in banning CBD, especially when so many soldiers are coming home in pain.

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