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House Approves Amendment Allowing Hemp/CBD Use By Military Members

July 28, 2020 in Cannabis Law

On Monday, July 20, 2020 the US House approved an amendment that would no longer bar military service members from using hemp and CBD products. Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) sponsored the measure.  In this article I will explain the current policy of several of the military branches on hemp and CBD usage by military members. I will also cite Rep Gabbard’s amendment as well as that of a bill she filed last year called the Hemp For Victory Act.

The Position of Military Branches on Hemp/ CBD Use By Service Members

Department of Defense (DOD)

In February, 2020 the DOD issued its official policy which solidified its previous informal policy on hemp and CBD usage. It states that all active and reserve service members are banned from using all hemp products, including CBD, regardless of its federal legalization under the 2018 Farm Bill. In a memo signed by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Matthew P. Donovan, in which the legalization of hemp is acknowledged, the department officials have given the following reasons for the ban:

  • The risk of exposure to products potentially containing excess THC is too great
  • Due to an inability to distinguish between legal and illegal THC and the potential for positive urinalysis drug tests, the use of hemp-derived products poses aserious risk to the viability of the military drug testing program
  • Cannabis usage poses too many risks and adverse effects on the mission for readiness of individual service members and military units

The Air Force

Members are prohibited from using hemp-derived CBD

The Navy

Members are barred from using CBD no matter its legality

The Coast Guard

Sailors may not use cannabis or visit state-legal dispensaries

NASA

Even NASA, which is not a branch of the military, warned their employees that CBD products may contain high concentrations of THC. This may cause them to fail a drug test which may end in their termination.

A possible explanation for these policy updates comes from the guidance released last year by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to the coordinators of federal agency drug programs. There were concerns expressed by SAMHSA about the prevalence of high concentrations of THC in CBD products which may result in failed drug tests.

Representative Gabbard’s Amendment

“Secretary of Defense may not prohibit, on the basis of a product containing hemp or any ingredient derived from hemp, the possession, use, or consumption of such product by a member of the Armed Forces” as long as the crop meets the federal definition of hemp and that “such possession, use, or consumption is in compliance with applicable Federal, State, and local law.”

Passed by a vote of 336-71, the measure was part of a large package with several other non-cannabis amendments in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Another amendment was introduced by Representative Ruben Gallego, D-AZ. It was added to the bill on July 1, having been approved in committee earlier in the month. The amendment would allow military authorities to authorize reenlistment waivers to military personnel who were terminated either for the admission of cannabis usage or who were convicted of a single misdemeanor cannabis offense.

Representative Gabbard’s hemp product amendment will also be included in the House 2021 Defense Authorization Bill.

While this amendment passed in the House, it remains to be seen if this or any other cannabis policy reform provisions will be included in a Senate bill.

Senators’ Cannabis and CBD Research Bill

That said, a bipartisan group of senators including Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA) Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced a cannabis and CBD research bill in June, 2019. Their bill would include the following:

  • Simplify the application process for all researchers who want to study the cannabis plant
  • Support the development of cannabis-derived medicines that would be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Allow laws to clarify the rights of doctors to discuss the benefits of cannabis with patients
  • Require a report generated by the US Department and Human Services (HHS) on the health benefits and risks of cannabis
  • Require HHS to generate another report on the obstacles surrounding cannabis research and ways to overcome them

Hemp For Victory Act

Representative Gabbard, who is a military veteran, filed a standalone bill, HR 3652 in July, 2019 called the “Hemp For Victory Act of 2019.”

In recognizing the potential for industrial hemp to grow into a multi-billion dollar industry, Rep Gabbard’s bill will enlist the services and expertise of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Defense, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, and Small Business Administration to conduct research and develop studies on the uses and benefits of hemp.

The goal of this bill is to stimulate even further the already fast-growing hemp industry by doing the following:

  • Creating thousands of jobs in the hemp industry
  • Helping small farmers successfully grow and sell industrial hemp using safe agricultural, environmental and labor practices
  • Helping small hemp businesses to sell their products
  • Preventing corporate monopolies
  • Studying the benefits of hemp cultivation and hemp-based products

Update on the Status of the Hemp For Victory Act

On July 25, 2019, HR 3652 was referred to the Subcommittee on Health as part of the Committee on Veteran’s Affairs. It does not appear to have been sent to the Committee on Veteran’s Affairs for a vote.

Please contact your Senators and encourage them to the support cannabis policy reform for our military members.

Sources:

marijuanamoment.net, Congress Approves Measure Allowing CBD Use By Military Service Members, Kyle Jaeger, July 20, 2020
marijuanamoment.net, Bipartisan Senators Introduce Marijuana and CBD Research Bill, Kyle Jaeger, June 28, 2019
newsweek.com, NDAA Amendment Would Let Soldiers Use Cannabis Derivatives Like CBD, Andrew Whalen, 7/21/20
gabbard.house.gov, Representative Tulsi Gabbard Introduces Bill To Energize Hemp Industry to Benefit All Americans, July 25, 2019

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