Cannabidiol (CBD), while non-psychoactive, is very beneficial to health and growing in popularity. It can now be found in coffee additives, lip balm, vaping liquids, tinctures and sweets and other foodstuffs. It helps you sleep and relieves inflammation, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, high blood pressure and pain, even severe pain.

While it’s legal in almost 50 states, the US Department of Defense (DoD) deems CBD “completely forbidden”. This was recently stated by Patricia Deuster, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

The US Department of Defense forbids servicepeople from using CBD. Photo: Fort Rucker

The US Department of Defense forbids servicepeople from using CBD. Photo: Fort Rucker

How CBD got legal

The Agriculture Improvement Act passed in December 2018 made things legal if they contained less than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the ingredient of cannabis that makes you stoned). Products, however, have not been tested formally, so a person can’t be sure just what they’ve taken. There’s no research to support many of the claims that product manufacturers make. Deuster recommended that members of the US military “Don’t believe what [companies] are telling you.” Her reason is that “CBD isn’t psychoactive, but, if it is adulterated, it could contain psychoactive ingredients.” Although some manufacturers guarantee that THC is absent, other might include it to give their products a kick.

How you could fail a drug test after taking CBD

Deuster explained that a servicemember would test positive for cannabis if the CBD product they had indulged in contained excessive THC. The DoD runs 60,000 drug tests a month, and everyone on active service with the US military must undergo such a test at least once a year. Deuster described this as “a real conundrum” because CBD products are found in so many shops. Personnel who fail a drug test have broken Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. They might find themselves forced from service with an other-than-honourable discharge, which may mean they lose veterans’ benefits. They could lose not only their jobs but also insurance, scholarships or parental custody.

“Err on the side of caution”

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer declared that servicemembers couldn’t rely on products’ packaging since the market is not well-regulated. Commander Matt Rooney, who heads the Policy and Standards Division at Coast Guard Headquarters, advised US military personnel to “err on the side of caution.”

CBD can cause problems if it’s messed with

US military bases reported over 100 medical cases that stemmed from CBD use over two months in 2018. The symptoms included disorientation, dizziness, headaches, increased heart rates, hallucinations, nausea and vomiting. Sometimes, servicepeople had to go to hospital. CBD is harmless, but problems arose because the CBD contained synthetic cannabinoids, too much THC or other hazardous compounds.

Within the last two years, the World Anti-Doping Agency, whose guidelines the International Olympic Committee and others use to decide which drugs are banned, began to allow CBD usage by athletes.

One estimate put the size of the US CBD market at $200 million, twice what it was two years ago. A number of companies offer servicepeople a discount on CBD products.

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