Navy Extends Hemp Product Ban to Include Shampoos, Soaps and Other Topicals

Meanwhile, a bill moving through Congress contains an amendment that would reverse the ban on hemp and CBD product use for all military service members.

July 29, 2020

As legislation moves through Congress to legalize cannabidiol (CBD) and other hemp-derived product use by military service members, the Navy has taken the ban a step further.

The Navy recently administered a memo clarifying that service members are prohibited from using “any products containing, made or derived from hemp” regardless of their stated cannabinoid content, including shampoos, conditioners, lotions, lip balms or soaps.

The most recent ban builds on a broader existing prohibition throughout the military on hemp and CBD products. In February, the Department of Defense issued an order that barred service members from using all hemp and CBD products.

Both that order and the most recent memo from the Navy state the prohibition on CBD products is because military service members need to pass a urinalysis drug test.

“The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not determine or certify the THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] concentration of commercially available hemp products, such as cannabidiol (CBD). Accordingly, these products may contain appreciable levels of THC, yet omit any reference to THC on the product label and/or list an inaccurate THC concentration,” the Navy memo states. “Consequently, Sailors and Marines cannot rely on the packaging and labeling of hemp products in determining whether the product contains THC concentrations that could cause a positive urinalysis result.”

The Navy memo clarifies exceptions for use of durable goods, such as hemp rope and clothing, as well as for those who have prescriptions for Epidiolex (which contains CBD) and Dronabinol (which contains THC).

The Navy issued a memo in 2019 prohibiting service members from using CBD products, though it’s unclear why it recently expanded its ban to include more topical products, which were not mentioned in previous hemp-related memos. (The Navy could not be reached for comment.)

Legislation for Change

An amendment to H.R. 6395 that is currently moving through Congress would reverse the military’s ban on hemp-derived products if approved.

Sponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), the amendment seeks to make it so 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 product and use of it is lawful.

The bill passed the House of Representatives July 22.

“Hemp products provide a form of treatment that serves as an alternative option for those who would rather pursue natural remedies rather than prescription drugs. This amendment passed with strong bipartisan support, ensuring our service members have access to the same over-the-counter products that Americans all across the country benefit from today,” said Tulsi, who is a veteran, in a news release.

The bill now heads to the Senate for a vote. While the amendment was not included in the Senate legislation, it may still be negotiated and considered for the final bill sent to the president.

If passed, the amendment would be a win for hemp advocates who have been pushing against the ban since it was clarified earlier this year.

“We’ve been pretty upset about the CBD ban for the military. … [This amendment] is something we’re pretty excited about,” says U.S. Hemp Roundtable general counsel Jonathan Miller.