Navy and Coast Guard Declare Cannabis Dispensaries and CBD Off Limits

Over the last two weeks, both the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy declared cannabis dispensaries and all forms of CBD off-limits to their Sailors.

Coast Guard

On July 30, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Karl Schultz, issued a general order banning Coasties from "knowingly visiting, entering, remaining in, or patronizing or otherwise conducting any kind of business with any establishment whose primary and prominent purpose is the growth, manufacture, sale or distribution of marijuana or Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products in any form for either medical or recreational purposes that violate federal law." The order applies to both brick-and-mortar dispensaries as well as delivery services and online orders.

Violations of this order will be punished under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (failure to obey a lawful order). The maximum punishment for an Article 92 violation includes "two years confinement, total forfeitures of pay and allowances, reduction to E-1, and a dishonorable discharge or dismissal." In other words, a servicemember would be in jail for two years, lose all pay, be reduced to the lowest rank possible, and essentially fired from the military. A dishonorable discharge also eliminates any eligibility for VA benefits, such as education, disability compensation, and even medical care.

According to Military.com, Coasties are also cautioned against any use of CBD, whether from cannabis or hemp, due to the lack of FDA testing and regulation. While certain CBD products may claim to have little to no THC, the Coast Guard does not want its servicemembers sacrificing their careers due to mislabeled CBD.

The Coast Guard falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security but is still subject to punishment under UCMJ articles.

Navy

The Navy is being a little more direct toward their Sailors, banning all forms of CBD, including CBD derived from hemp.

ALNAV 057/19 was issued on August 7 from the Secretary of the Navy, prohibiting Sailors from "knowingly using products made or derived from hemp (as defined in 7 U.S.C. 1639o), including cannabidiol (CBD), regardless of the products [sic] THC concentration, claimed or actual, and regardless of whether such product may lawfully be bought, sold, and used under the law applicable to civilians."

According to the order, violations would also be punished under Article 92 of the UCMJ.

Also similar to the Coast Guard's guidance, the Navy's order cites the lack of FDA testing and guidance regarding CBD products.

Guidance

These knee-jerk responses may seem extreme to some, but they do have a point. There is little to no FDA guidance or oversight to the labeling of CBD products. This causes confusion and makes it difficult to tell if a product contains THC or any cannabinoids at all. This lack of guidance and oversight is a direct result of cannabis's characterization as a Schedule I substance. While the hemp species of cannabis has been removed from the Schedule I list, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, all other forms of cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC remain Schedule I and illegal to study. Maintaining cannabis on the Schedule I list deprives our servicemembers of potentially life-saving treatments for pain, PTSD, or any number of causes. Rather than run the risk of a positive drug test and severe punishment, servicemembers must play it safe and stay away from CBD products.

This is just one of the many reasons we advocate for cannabis to be removed from Schedule I and studied, so its benefits can be enjoyed by all, not just those lucky enough to live in a legal state.

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