FORT LEE, Va. – “Regardless of its widespread availability, it’s a federally prohibited substance and, therefore, illegal within the DOD workforce,” stated Katina Oates, the Army Substance Abuse Program manager here.
Her remark is in reference to products containing cannabidiol extract, or CBD, which have exploded in popularity as a result of aggressive civilian advertising that touts their benefits as pain relievers, stress reducers, depression inhibitors and more.
“CBD is everywhere,” a recently released Army News article pointed out. “You would be hard-pressed to enter any pharmacy, mega-mart or health food store and not find it on the shelves. CBD can even be purchased online from the comfort of your couch.”
Hemp oil and cannabidiol are one in the same. The array of delivery methods include, but are not limited to, gummy chews, cigarettes and vape pens, oils and skin creams, and sleep medications. CBD is frequently used in personal care treatments at nail salons and by some massage therapists.
“Military members should not confuse the prevalence of such products with their legality,” Oates said. “Soldiers are prohibited from using hemp products of any sort, whether or not they have been legalized in certain jurisdictions.”
Due to CBD being both unregulated and often containing small amounts of THC, the DOD still considers it to be an “illicit drug,” and its use as unauthorized by service members and government civilians, the Army News article warned.
An excerpt from Army Regulation 600-85, dated July 23, 2020, reads as follows: “The use of products made or derived from hemp (as defined in 7 USC. 1639o) … regardless of the product’s THC concentration, claimed or actual, and regardless of whether such product may lawfully be bought, sold and used under the law applicable to civilians, is prohibited.”
The other uniformed services have similar regulations prohibiting CBD’s use. There are federal workforce restrictions that apply to government civilians as well – further details are available on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website, samhsa.gov.
According to CBD-product manufacturers, the key hemp-plant-based ingredient is “non-psychoactive,” which means the consumer won’t experience the “high” of typical THC found in cannabis. The disparity in that claim, from the DOD’s perspective, is found in the federal guidelines that say a product is federally legal if it contains less than 0.3 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol, meaning the THC is still present.
The market also has been largely unregulated, so nobody can say whether ingredient labels are true to actual cannabis levels. In a recent study of 84 CBD products, 69 percent had higher levels of cannabiol than specified.
Furthermore, with no Federal Drug Administration oversight of the production of CBD products, “there is an increased risk of potential injury related to ingesting potential molds, pesticides and heavy metals,” the Army News article advised.
As for the number of aches and ailments the oil is said to decrease, there is little scientific evidence to support it, according to the popular health information website webmd.com. However, research into hemp-derived medication continues to increase following the FDA’s approval of the CBD drug Epidiolex for the treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy, Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.
“Summing up this discussion, I think it’s all about informing our military community about these products and asking them to be mindful of their potential impact on someone’s career,” Oates said.
“Given the DOD and Army’s stance on this subject,” she continued, “there is no room for interpretation if it causes someone to test positive during a random drug test. Think of it as a health issue as well. Part of my office’s responsibility is to inform the community about the risk of using a chemical substance that could be harmful because it lacks oversight and full FDA approval.”
A lengthier discussion of what is and isn’t known about CBD products can be found at www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis. To contact the Fort Lee ASAP office, call 804-734-9182.