The U.S. Navy has told it’s sailors that they are not allowed to use hemp-derived products, including those containing CBD, even though the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 (part of the 2018 Farm Bill) declassified hemp as a controlled substance.
The Navy said in its memo to all serving personnel that the Farm Bill has no bearing on Navy policy and therefore all sailors remain banned from using hemp-based products.
Why CBD Products Have Proliferated
CBD is a chemical compound harvested from the hemp strain of the cannabis plant and is often wrongly associated with its closely-related chemical compound THC.
THC is psychoactive and is found in much larger quantities in the marijuana strain of cannabis, giving users a “high” sensation after consumption.
Commercially-grown hemp contains very little THC (0.3%), and CBD products often contain even smaller amounts after processing, meaning those taking CBD products don’t experience a “high”.
However, the murky regulation of the industry is still a cause for concern for the Navy.
Navy Warns of Mislabeling
Within the memo, the Navy explained their reasoning for upholding a ban on CBD use.
They noted that “Commercially-available hemp products, including CBD, have not been inspected by the FDA and therefore have not been proven to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any illness. Some of these products do not list all ingredients, making it impossible to know definitively how much CBD, THC or other synthetic cannabinoids they may contain.”
While the health benefits of CBD have been widely claimed, science is still playing catch up. Clinical trials are still ongoing and so far only one drug containing CBD (Epidiolex) has gained FDA approval.
The Navy also correctly asserted that labels on CBD products often do not match up to their ingredients. A 2017 study showed that as much as 1 in 5 of the CBD products tested contained an amount of THC which would see a sailor fail a drug screening.
CBD Products on Hold for Many Service Personnel
Sailors will likely have to wait for further legislation for their situation to change with regards to taking CBD products, regardless of the potential health benefits taking the CBD products could bring them.
Other organizations have taken a similar line, with the U.S. Coastguard issuing an order banning all personnel from visiting businesses that grows, sells, or distributes marijuana. This is regardless of whether the personnel live or operate in one of the 11 states that have legalized marijuana.
The negative connotations surrounding cannabis products looks set to continue to dictate military policy towards substances derived from this versatile plant. Without more clinical trials and more thorough legislation provided by state capitals and the FDA, it’s difficult to foresee a situation where the Navy will change its stance.