A longstanding zero-tolerance cannabis policy could be slowly eroding in the military.
Earlier in July, a House committee approved a provision that would let troops who previously used cannabis to re-enlist. But Congress recently passed an amendment to allow service members to use hemp and CBD products.
The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, was added to the National Defense Authorization Act(NDAA) and included several non-cannabis amendments. The House of Representatives approved the NDAA in a 336 to 71 vote.
“The 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,” the amendment reads.
A memo that was recently made public revealed that the Pentagon had quietly moved to make CBD use a punishable offence for military troops. The Department of Defense banned hemp and CBD products in all forms in February to “protect the integrity of the drug testing program,” wrote Matthew Donovan, Acting Undersecretary for the department. Previously, the Navy and Marine Corps. were allowed to use topical products, including shampoos and lotions.
The U.S. federal government legalized hemp in 2018 and removed hemp from its list of controlled substances. Law qualifies any cannabis products with less than 0.3 per cent THC as hemp, which created the booming CBD market seen today.
This has caused confusion for law enforcement in some states where cannabis remains illegal, as the police must conduct laboratory analysis in marijuana-related cases.
Donovan sought to avoid that confusion and “spare the U.S. military the risks and adverse effects marijuana use has on the mission readiness of individual service members and military units.”
If the NDAA is signed into law with Gabbard’s amendment included, it would supersede defence department rules. The provision that would allow reenlistment despite prior cannabis use is also attached to the House version of the NDAA. It is currently unknown if these marijuana policies will find approval in the Senate.
However, a bipartisan group led by Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced an amendment that would expand cannabis and CBD research. The group is seeking to attach the provision to the Senate version of the NDAA bill.