CBD in the Military

Have you noticed that hemp-derived products, including cannabidiol (CBD), are becoming increasingly ubiquitous across the country? You can now find hemp products ranging from coffee additives and vaping liquids to supplements and candies to ointments and creams. Many product labels claim that CBD is a pain reliever and sleep aid, able to treat numerous ailments such as anxiety, depression, stress, and inflammation.

If you are a service member in the armed forces, you may be wondering about the regulations surrounding CBD in the military. In short, US troops can now be punished for using hemp or CBD products, according to a Department of Defense memo from February that was recently made public.

If you are facing punitive charges for CBD use in the military, Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law, can represent you. We have years of experience defending service members stationed around the world.

Learn more about why CBD is prohibited in the military and the types of punishments you could face if you’re found to have used this substance.

The Legalization of Hemp

Hemp was removed from the federal government’s list of controlled substances under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. According to this legislation, hemp is legal if it contains less than 0.3 percent of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. As a reminder, marijuana remains illegal under federal law and is therefore prohibited in the armed forces under Article 112A.

Why CBD is Banned in the Military

Since the legalization of hemp, the market for CBD has exploded into a $1 billion industry in the United States. However, while CBD is no longer considered a Schedule I substance, the Agriculture Improvement Act did not necessarily legalize all hemp-derived products. Plus, the US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate the ingredients of dietary supplements.

This means the CBD market is unregulated and untested, making it difficult for a person to tell exactly what they’re buying or using. It’s even possible for troops to test positive for marijuana after consuming a legal CBD product with THC content of 0.3 percent. For these reasons, the DoD can’t realistically maintain a list of approved hemp products.

As a result, Matthew Donovan, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, released a memo in February 2020 directing all branches of the armed forces to issue regulations or general orders prohibiting the use of hemp products. This memo became public in June 2020 when the DoD’s Operation Supplement Safety, an initiative within the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, highlighted the memo in a tweet.

The new orders make the use of hemp or CBD punitive across all DoD active-duty and reserve component personnel, including the Navy and Marine Corps, whose members were previously permitted to use topical products such as hemp lotion and shampoo.

Donovan said the sweeping prohibition was initiated to “protect the integrity of the drug testing program” and prevent the possibility of a service member testing positive for marijuana after consuming a CBD product.

It’s important to note that the Coast Guard falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Defense. As such, their policies are permitted to differ. The Coast Guard restricts the ingestion of hemp oil or products made from hemp seed, but it doesn’t forbid food items containing hemp ingredients. Still, Coast Guard personnel are banned from participating in events that celebrate cannabis, as well as entering establishments or making online purchases from stores that sell or promote these products.

To protect themselves from potential violations of law and policy, service members of the armed forces are advised to avoid any hemp-derived CBD products. When in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Punishments for CBD Use

If a service member is found to have used a CBD product, their commander is required to initiate the administrative separation process. This is true regardless of THC concentration, even if the product was lawfully bought, sold, or used under the law applicable to civilians. CBD use in the military is punishable under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Failure to Obey a Lawful General Order. It is also potentially under Article 112A, Wrongful Use of a Controlled Substance. There are a few exceptions to this, including:

  • CBD use by authorized personnel while performing medical duties
  • CBD use “pursuant to legitimate law enforcement duties,” according to Donovan’s memo
  • FDA-approved CBD or synthetic cannabis medication use with a doctor’s prescription, including Epidiolex, Syndros, and Marinol
  • Accidental ingestion of hemp or CBD

Knowingly using products derived from hemp, including CBD, may result in administrative and/or disciplinary action leading to an Other Than Honorable Discharge. If certain statutory and regulatory bars apply, this could block discharged members from receiving VA benefits and services.

Hire a Military Defense Attorney

If you, a friend, or a relative has violated the military’s rules on CBD use, you may now be facing a separation hearing. It’s crucial to seek legal representation as soon as possible to restore your reputation and fight your discharge from the military. When you work with Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law, rest assured that you’ll receive competent advice from a military defense lawyer who formerly served as an Army JAG officer. Let us help you build a case to argue your innocence or work toward lessening your punishment.

To speak with a dedicated legal team about defending against charges of CBD use, please contact us online or call us toll free at 888-616-6177 or (254) 340-0867 . Our compassionate, knowledgeable staff is here to provide you with the best possible legal defense.

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[…] cannabidiol (CBD) has been removed from the federal government’s list of controlled substances, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Therefore, it continues to be prohibited in the military under Article […]


[…] Military law also still criminalizes many things that are legal in the civilian world, such as cannabis use and […]