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C.B.Don’t – Military members, civilians on military bases should steer clear of CBD, THC products

By Capt. Ben Gatrost and Capt. David Layman | 509th Bomb Wing Judge Advocate | Jan. 31, 2020

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Missouri —

Over the last several years, many states have relaxed their laws and made marijuana legal for medical and/or recreational use. However, marijuana remains listed by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I controlled substance and it continues to be illegal under federal law.

Members of the United States military are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, regardless of what state or country they reside in.

Article 112a of the UCMJ prohibits wrongful use, possession, distribution and manufacture of controlled substances, which includes marijuana, and any of its compounds or derivatives. This includes tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and cannabidiol, or CBD.

Commercial products of all kinds – ranging from beer to lotions - have started to be infused with THC and CBD, and CBD shops have begun springing up in shopping malls and storefronts everywhere. These products are illegal to possess on base by anybody.

CBD, a derivative of marijuana, is a schedule I controlled substance. On Sept. 28, 2018, the DEA published in the Federal Register that FDA-approved drugs that contain CBD derived from cannabis containing no more than 0.1 percent THC are a Schedule V controlled substance. There is currently only one pharmaceutical-grade CBD product approved by the FDA, Epidiolex. As a Schedule V controlled substance, Epidiolex still requires a doctor’s prescription for lawful possession and use under federal law.

Air Force Manual 44-197, Military Drug Demand Reduction Program, 30 July 2019, states the “use of products containing or derived from ‘hemp,’ as defined in Public Law 115-334, Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, may interfere with the Air Force Drug Testing Program. In order to ensure military readiness and the reliability and integrity of the Drug Testing Program, the knowing ingestion (orally, intravenously, through smoking/vaporization, or through other means) of products containing or products derived from hemp is prohibited.” 

The AFMAN further explains that ”the knowing use of hemp products designed to penetrate the skin, including but not limited to transdermal patches, is prohibited. Failure by military personnel to comply with the mandatory provisions of this paragraph is a violation of Article 92, UCMJ, if such failure does not otherwise meet the elements of Article 112a, UCMJ. Violations may result in administrative disciplinary action without regard to otherwise applicable criminal or civil sanctions for violations of related laws.” 

Therefore, per Air Force policy, any product containing any amount of THC is considered illicit and could result in disciplinary action under the UCMJ.

A 2017 study found that twenty-one percent of CBD products contain THC– even when the products were advertised as containing zero THC.[1] The use of CBD derived from cannabis (subject to the Epidiolex exception above), marijuana, and medical marijuana remain categorized as schedule I controlled substances with no federally recognized medical purpose.

Therefore, it continues to be illegal to possess and use ANY of them under federal law. This includes not only military members, but also any civilian on federal property. The intended purpose is irrelevant.

Be vigilant in what you ingest to avoid the wrong side of federal law and protect your Air Force career. Read the ingredients list on items before using them. It is illegal to possess or use any marijuana, THC, or CBD product on a military base – even if you are a civilian. 

While more and more states legalize marijuana, more marijuana dispensaries open up, and more CBD products become available and accessible, members of the military and federal employees should exercise caution in what they purchase or use.  If you see CBD, stay away.

[1] See https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2020473/air-force-says-cbd-products-not-ok-to-use-may-cause-positive-drug-test/ discussing the 2017 study by Marcel Bonn-Miller, Ph.D.