Why did the Pentagon just make it illegal for American soldiers to use CBD?
CBD is just a little too close to THC for the Pentagon's comfort
The memo came down from the Department of Defense at the Pentagon in February. It was direct and it was simple: by March 1st, 2020 the use or consumption of CBD by any American military personnel (either on-duty or on reserve) would officially be prohibited, by military law.
Now, not only are military personnel legally forbidden from using oral CBD products, but topical ones like salves and lotions as well. Even soldiers who are at home, between tours and off-duty, are subject to punishment if they are caught using CBD products.
Never-mind the reasons they might be using it.
When administered acutely, CBD has been proven to effectively treat generalized anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. It can help treat chronic pain, makes sleep easier, reduces inflammation, and best of all, it’s non-psychoactive and non-addictive.
So why doesn’t our military want American soldiers using CBD? If it can treat anxiety and PTSD, and help make soldiers’ lives less painful, why would they make its use illegal?
As Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Matthew Donovan, wrote in his February memo:
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not determine or certify the THC concentration of commercially-available hemp products, such as cannabidiol (also known as CBD), and these products can contain appreciable levels of THC, yet omit any reference to THC on the product label and/or list an inaccurate THC concentration.”
Essentially, the unregulated nature of the CBD market makes it a challenge for drug testing purposes. CBD comes from hemp and has to contain less than .3% THC in order to be considered “federally legal.” However, because the FDA does not regulate CBD, those products can contain pretty much anything.
Often times that means products marketed as containing “extremely high quality” CBD, actually contain little to no CBD (or THC) at all. Other times, in legal states it means that producers don’t strictly obey that .3% THC ceiling, required by the Feds.
It’s an unregulated market with unregulated problems, to put it simply. Many within the industry call it “the wild west” because there are so many con-artists and faux products masquerading as legit businesses. Forged certificates of authenticity, false claims and contaminated products are rampant when it comes to CBD — largely because it hangs in such a strange legal gray area.
Which, for the Pentagon, presents a drug testing problem. If soldiers could use CBD when they were actively on duty or on reserve, they might accidentally (or intentionally) get their hands on CBD that has higher-than-legal THC content, and fail a drug test. After all, THC is still illegal at a federal level and therefore WAY off-limits for members of the military — they, like any other government employee, have to get drug tested. And if they fail, they face significant disciplinary action and will likely be court marshalled.
So, for lack of better oversight and regulation, the Pentagon simply decided to make CBD illegal for soldiers (at home or overseas) full stop.
“I find that protecting the integrity of the drug testing program requires the prohibition of the use of all hemp products,” wrote Donavan in his memo. “Even though such a prohibition will, in some instances, extend to products the normal use of which could not cause a positive urinalysis result.”
Of course, there is another option for solving this problem. If cannabis was legalized at a federal level and CBD was better regulated, the Department of Defense could be reassured that their soldiers were using legal CBD products that won’t affect drug testing. They could have access to a very functionally useful medicine, while also keeping their soldier’s THC-free.
I understand why soldiers probably shouldn’t be allowed to smoke pot (who in their right mind would want to go kill people and get shot at after they’ve just ripped some dank Indica?). But making CBD illegal to use just because it messes with cannabis drug testing doesn’t seem like a solution. CBD could help countless soldiers deal with the physical and mental stress of life in the military.
Why shouldn't they have access to it?