On Monday, July 20, the House of Representatives approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill that would allow members of the military to use products containing hemp and other derivatives—including CBD.
The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), passed by a vote of 336-71. It stipulates that 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” as long as the crop meets the federal definition of hemp and that “such possession, use, or consumption is in compliance with applicable Federal, State, and local law.”
While hemp was removed from the federal government’s list of controlled substances under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, the military has remained unmoved in its stance.
“It’s completely forbidden for use by any service member in any of the services at this point of time,” said Patricia Deuster, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, said in a statement last August.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive chemical found in the cannabis sativa plant and was declared safe by the World Health Organization in 2018. Since then, the CBD industry has flourished. The market is conservatively projected to become a $16 billion industry in the United States by 2025, with companies like veteran-owned Extract Labs staking their own claim in the industry.
Hemp that contains less than .3 percent THC is legal in all 50 states, and CBD’s growing “list of benefits include helping individuals who struggle with insomnia, depression, anxiety, and epileptic seizures, all common characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury,” writes Military Times.
However, CBD is primarily marketed and sold as a supplement in items such as tea, oils, and gummies, and the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the safety and purity of dietary supplements, writes Dr. Peter Grinspoon for the Harvard Health Blog.
“It’s the monster that has taken over the room,” Dr. Brad Ingram, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, told the New York Times about all the wild uses for CBD now, a fact that concerns the military.
“There are very few products that have been approved by the FDA, so the vast majority of CBD products we see on the market on a day to day basis remain federally illegal,” Air Force Capt. Marcus Walker said in a statement this past January. “Products may contain more THC than expected and have the potential to cause a positive urine drug test and intoxication, which may affect military readiness. These products may also be adulterated with other active components, like synthetic cannabinoids, which may lead to intoxication and accidents.”
However, there is growing bipartisanship over the issues of CBD and marijuana in the military. In early July, Rep. Ruben Gallego’s (D-AZ) amendment found House support over the creation of reenlistment waivers for service members who admitted to the use of cannabis or for those who were previously convicted of a single misdemeanor marijuana offense.
Rep. Gabbard’s amendment is in good company. The Senate version of the NDAA may also include a bipartisan amendment introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Grassley, and Brian Schatz, that seeks to expand cannabis research and the development of FDA-approved drugs based on cannabinoids
Rep. Gabbard, a combat veteran, also introduced a bill last year titled “Hemp for Victory”, which would mandate research and develop guidelines for the potential therapeutic effects of hemp for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
And while it remains to be seen whether Gabbard’s amendment will make it into the Senate version of the bill—and whether President Donald Trump will veto the bill—the growing conversation and research surrounding the benefits of CBD is now being explored.