Does The Military Test For CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD), a component of cannabis plants, is not only non-psychoactive, but it is also legal across the US. In fact, it has been proven to possess some very unique health benefits to both humans and animals. 

Even though the Department of Defense (DOD) accepts these facts, most of its sections, especially the army, have still clearly banned its use by their soldiers. Not even the 2018 Farm Bill did much to deter their commitment to keeping our soldiers free from all cannabis products, including a perfectly safe, therapeutic and legal substance like CBD. 

So, Does The Military Test For CBD?

Short answer: No.

Technically speaking, drug tests are meant to look for illegal drugs like tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which causes hallucinations and euphoric effects that are obviously dangerous for our men in uniform.

Nonetheless, the military has strict rules against CBD products. Naturally, a service person, who needs CBD oil to manage pain or anxiety, would wonder why? 

To understand what this confusion is all about, we first need to get all the facts straight. So, let’s get on with it, shall we? 

Explaining The Military Standpoint

In a command message on the American Forces Network, the DOD recently warned all its service members of the risk of exposure to illegal drugs, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a highly psychoactive and definitely illegal substance, even if unwittingly, while using CBD oil. 

Ironically, the message cautioning the soldiers of the presence of unexpectedly high levels of THC in CBD oils was issued soon after the passage of Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 that declared hemp plants (that contain very low concentrations of THC) as an agricultural commodity as opposed to an illicit drug-producing plant as it was originally considered. 

Another concern expressed by the Department of Military and Emergency Medicine at Uniformed Services University is that some CBD products out there contain synthetic cannabinoids. Not only is there nothing natural about these products, but they can also be quite harmful. 

According to a story published by the army on the Army Public Health Center’s official website, around 60 people recently fell sick, exhibiting symptoms like headache, nausea, vomiting, palpitation, dilated pupils, dizziness, disorientation, agitation, and even seizures after using CBD vape oil at two US army medical centers in North Carolina.

If these reports are to be believed, then it is quite possible that some other agent had been mixed with the CBD products they consumed because CBD has been scientifically proven to be safe, and the above-mentioned effects defy the results of the recent findings of studies and tests conducted on people taking CBD oil. 

It is believed that those 60 patients must have consumed synthetic cannabinoids that are essentially synthetic-THC isolates created in a laboratory.

In the Public Health Center’s site, the army clearly stated: “Although pure CBD oil has not yet been associated with adverse health effects, CBD vape oils may contain synthetic cannabinoids, concentrated Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and/or synthetic cannabinoids.”

So much so, the military also used its Operation Supplement Safety campaign website to send out a similar message: “Military Service Members should avoid using any product with CBD, as it could contain THC and result in a positive drug test,” the message read.

No matter what the different reasons for those soldiers falling sick may have been, the army has placed a blanket ban on all CBD products, as per the Army Regulation 600-85.

This incident only brings to the fore the need to ensure the quality of CBD products we use. Every user must buy from only the trusted brands that source their cannabis from regulated plantations and manufacture them in a safer environment and method to stay safe and healthy. 

What is spice or K2? 

The men and women serving in the military are most certainly always under constant stress, and often in a lot of pain. CBD oil has all the therapeutic properties to relieve them of that. 

However, not ever CBD products out there are as safe as the companies would have you believe. Quality products cost a lot of money, something that many soldiers may not always be able to afford. 

Unfortunately for them, certain fake marijuana products, known mostly as ‘spice’ or ‘K2’, which are nothing more than synthetic cannabinoids, are being sold in the market, both online and offline. 

Often marketed with labels reading ‘therapeutic incense – not for human consumption’, these fake products are NOT derived from cannabis plants, like hemp or marijuana, and don’t even have any CBD in them. 

These lab-made chemicals don’t have any therapeutic values! Instead, they do more harm than good. In fact, these cannabinoids are so toxic that they can downright kill you! 

These chemicals, which are usually sprayed on substances like tobacco and smoked, carry some potentially harmful effects. The inorganic chemicals used to create these fake cannabinoids can be twice to even 100 times stronger than THC – enough to make you go mad, terribly sick or even cause your death.  

Another recent incident at a park in New Haven, Connecticut had also caught the attention of the Department of Defense. In the incident, 76 people apparently overdosed on synthetic marijuana. This mass casualty had no connection with hemp, marijuana, or CBD at all.

In this context, it is important to know and understand the existing laws of the land concerning CBD, hemp, and marijuana. 

Legalities Concerning CBD Oil

The restrictions on all cannabis products are quite a new thing in the United States. 

The US government reportedly urged farmers to grow hemp during the Second World War. So much so, the hemp growers could even pay their growers in hemp!

It was only recently banned by the federal government owing to the plants “family connection” with marijuana. Besides, there is another reason for the government’s stance. Hemp was earlier used in the textile industry. But, with the shift to cheaper textiles from China in the mid-20th century, hemp farmers went out of business.

Hemp plantation was able to make a comeback and regain its legal status only in 2014 when the government passed the new farm bill. 

What The 2014 Farm Bill Meant For Farmers

The 2014 Farm Bill introduced a pilot study program for state and higher learning institutions to grow hemp only for research.

The 1000-page Bill’s provisions allowed any farmer who acquired a license under the program was allowed to grow hemp, thus easing a 75-year-old ban on growing and studying industrial hemp. 

However, the language of the new provisions had a few loopholes, placing CBD under the legal food and health supplement category.

The Tussle with the DEA

In 2004, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which was trying to include hemp in the list of Schedule I substances, lost the case to the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ruling in favor of HIA, the judge maintained that the DEA did not have the authority to regulate unscheduled drugs.

In 2017, the DEA made another attempt to categorized hemp-derived CBD under Schedule I substances, just like THC and marijuana. But the agency could not make much headway with this and the new rule remained merely an administrative decision, with no executive application. 

Nevertheless, until 2018, hemp plantation remained restricted to only those farmers who acquired a license under the pilot studies program. Apart from this, DEA’s ruling of hemp being listed under Schedule I substance remained true for the rest of the people of this country. 

How The Farm Bill of 2018 Changed Everything

The 2018 Farm Bill brought about a sea-change in the hemp industry. According to this new law, for hemp or any of its part or derivatives to be considered legal, it should not contain any more than 0.3% by weight of THC.

As opposed to the 2014 Farm Act, hemp was no longer considered as a “controlled substance”. 

In effect, the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp-derived CBD legal in all 50 states of the US. President Trump passed the 2018 Farm Bill (legally known as Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018) on December 20 of that year, removing hemp as a Schedule I substance and reclassified it as an “agricultural commodity”.

The new regulation granted States the right to grow hemp outside the purview of the pilot programs. Under this new law, states and communities could submit a plan and accordingly apply for primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp.

This placed the authority and responsibility of keeping a vigil on the land used for growing hemp, their testing methods, and efficient disposal of plants/products entirely on the states. It also allowed the easing of rules restricting grants, loans, and credit, to hemp farmers.

The new law also removed any restrictions on the sale, transportation, and possession of hemp-derived CBD products. It allowed for their transportation across state lines, but only as long as these products followed certain guidelines.

The only restrictions now are:

  1. The hemp plants must contain no more than 0.3% THC. If any cannabis plant has levels any higher than this, it would be considered as marijuana under federal law. 
  2. The states must work alongside the federal regulatory authorities to oversee hemp cultivation and production. A state can’t move forward without the Secretary of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s approval. Farmers who choose to grow hemp can apply for licenses and must abide by a federally-run program, quite similar to other shared regulatory programs, like health insurance and workplace safety plans.
  3. The new law clearly defines penalties to be taken in case a farmer is found growing hemp without a license or growing hemp that is legally not considered as hemp (i.e. contains THC levels higher than 0.3% by weight).
  4. Legalization of hemp does not mean anyone can grow it as freely as they can grow tomatoes or basil. Hemp is still a regulated crop under the United States federal law.

CBD & Drug Tests

Anecdotal reports and scientific evidence of CBD’s therapeutic benefits and safety have been well recorded. However, people are still wary about using CBD oil for fear of failing a drug test, especially if they are required to take it for their job, insurance, scholarships, parental custody, or otherwise. 

You must understand that drug tests are not designed to detect CBD. However, they can detect THC even as little as 50ng/ml of urine.

As long as your CBD product has less than 0.3% THC content, you won’t have a problem. You can always check for such information from the test results of third-party laboratories. Companies are obligated to provide these results. 

Nevertheless, when it comes to those who serve in the army or other military wings, you would not want to take the risk of using any CBD product, as it may put you at risk of failing the test. 

Let’s be frank: How many service persons actually have the time or luxury to check for quality test information on these products before using them? 

Final Thoughts

CBD is a naturally occurring cannabinoid compound found in cannabis. Although it is extracted from the same family of plants that have intoxicating and hallucinatory properties, CBD itself isn’t responsible for those effects.

Hemp, not marijuana, has not more than 0.3% THC content, which is not even detectable on a drug test. THC is the narcotic substance that is present in high concentrations in marijuana (also of the cannabis family), giving you a “high” when consumed or smoked. And it is definitely illegal. 

You would find it interesting to know that even though the DOD has banned the use of all hemp products, owing to CBD’s therapeutic effects and safe consumption, the Navy and the Marines do still allow it. 

Even then, as of February 26, 2019, the Uniformed Services University’s website has maintained its former position of warning service members against the use of any product with CBD. 

The only ray of hope for army service personnel is these lines that followed the warning: “We are currently consulting our federal partners to ensure our interpretation of the Farm Bill in combination with current FDA regulations is accurate. When we have more information, we will post an updated version of this article.”

No further update has been made available on their website up to this date. 

Author Details
Senior Editor & Researcher , Greenthevoteok
Matt Hansel is a Medical Practitioner, who has been writing and researching about cannabis since 2014.  His popular quotes which we like are: \"Don\'t use CBD oil for a cure, use it as a precaution\"  \"CBD should be considered as any other vitamin supplement and your body needs it!\"