Why Did the Navy Warn Sailors About CBD?

Why Did the Navy Warn Sailors About CBD?

September 26, 2019

Despite the federal legalization of hemp, CBD use is still getting pushback from government. In August 2019, the Navy warned Sailors and Marines that the use of hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) products was prohibited. Find out why with myCBD.org.

Why the Navy Warned Sailors About CBD

The Farm Bill that went into effect at the end of last year allows hemp cultivation and the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines and defines hemp as a cannabis plant that contains no more than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical compound in cannabis associated with psychoactive effects. Since the passage of this legislation, hemp-derived products, including cannabidiol (CBD), have become widely available.

In fact, CBD use has become so normalized, that the Navy issued a clarification earlier this summer, informing Marines and Sailors that its policy has not changed with the passing of the Farm Bill. Further, the memo warned that use of all products derived from hemp or marijuana are still prohibited from use by Sailors and Marines.

“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 Navy said in their August 2019 press release.

What a CBD Ban Means for Those Enlisted

The Navy said it is possible to test positive for THC on a urinalysis by using a CBD or hemp product. It can be impossible to determine where a CBD or hemp product was manufactured and what level of THC it may contain. Even trace amounts of THC can accumulate in the body and be detected in a urinalysis screening.

A policy message signed by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer also stated that the use of hemp products — either by injection, ingestion, inhalation or other means, including absorption through the skin — would interfere with Navy and Marine Corps drug testing programs and “result in the reporting of unlawful THC levels.”

The Navy added that Sailors who test positive for THC or other controlled substances for which they have no valid prescription are subject to mandatory administrative processing and could receive a discharge characterized as “Other Than Honorable” (OTH), which could affect their future veteran’s benefits and even employment opportunities.

Additionally, the Navy stated it would report unlawful drug users to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which could impact the ability to purchase firearms or ammunition in the future and said 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.

Topical CBD Still Allowed?

Interestingly, the Navy’s prohibition on hemp and CBD does not apply to the use of topical CBD products such as shampoos, conditioners, lotions, or soaps. In fact, just after their announcement, the Navy offered updated guidance on products containing CBD that sailors could still use without fear of reprisal.

“Currently, we do have an influx of products coming out right now and we just want to make sure they are informed and they’re safe,” said Selle Butler, a chemist with the Navy Personnel Command, which oversees drug testing.

While it is still against Navy regulations to ingest CBD or use products designed to penetrate the skin, like patches. CBD creams are now OK, provided they contain .3% or less of THC — the ingredient associated with the high produced by consuming marijuana products, Butler said.

Treading Murky Waters when it Comes Drug Tests

The topical CBD caveat may also open up a legal gray area in the Navy’s zero-tolerance policy, at least according to Jeff Carver, an attorney who represents military clients in California. “Even different products are OK provided that it’s cream for the skin,” he said. “Shampoo for the hair — if it’s below .3%. That might pass. Well, that’s dangerous.”

The confusing language may make it more difficult for the Navy to enforce its zero-tolerance policy for products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Further, the Navy has no evidence that using the topical CBD creams with less than .3% THC will cause a sailor to fail a drug test, Butler said. 

His advice? For now at least, Navy personnel should steer clear of any CBD product that doesn’t require a prescription as using marijuana remains strictly against Navy regulations. The other services have similar prohibitions, as marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The latest farm bill makes a distinction between CBD derived from hemp and products derived from marijuana, which has a higher level of THC.

Steer Clear of CBD Confusion with myCBD.org

Curious about the benefits and side effects of CBD? Steer clear of pseudoscience and stick to the facts with myCBD.org!


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