The U.S. House of Representatives on July 20 voted 336 to 71 to approve a package of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act—including one that would allow military personnel to consume CBD and other hemp-derived products.
“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,” reads the amendment, sponsored by Hawaii’s controversial Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat.
A related measure would allow the heads of the four branches of the military to issue reenlistment waivers for those who admit to having used cannabis or were convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana offense. That measure, introduced by Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, would allow waivers to be granted on a case-by-case basis, Newsweek reports.
As Marijuana Moment points out, it remains to be seen whether either amendment will make it into the Senate version of the NDAA. But a bipartisan group of senators is trying to attach a cannabis research provision into the defense spending bill. That measure, a rider unrelated to the military, is called the Cannabidiol & Marihuana Research Expansion Act.
Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) are pushing the bill, an effort which may be indicative of hope in the upper House for passing measures corresponding to those introduced by Gabbard and Gallego.
Response to Pentagon Intolerance
Gabbard’s move comes in response to a CBD crackdown by Pentagon brass. As Military.com reports, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness Matthew Donovan in February directed all four branches to issue general orders or regulations prohibiting the use of cannabis-derived products.
Donovan’s memo cited the supposed threat to “the integrity of the drug testing program” posed by CBD use (a dubious proposition, as legal CBD products contain little to no THC), and indicated that the regulations must be enforceable under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This is the article that imposes court-martial for failure to obey an order.
The Army and Air Force both issued such regulations last year. But members of the Navy and Marine Corps were allowed under Department of the Navy regulations to use topical products such as shampoo, lotions and creams.
Donovan’s memo did carve out certain exceptions, including ingestion unawares and use of FDA-approved medications such as Epidiolex, Marinol and Syndros.
Gabbard’s amendment is especially significant in light of the potential shown by cannabinoids for treatment of post-traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD—clearly a question of concern to service members.
There was a positive response from figures in the cannabis industry who have been exploring the use of preparations to treat PTSD.
“This is a long overdue, but an exciting opportunity for our active military to have access to state-of-the-art CBD products to help them manage chronic pain as well as anxiety and PTSD challenges,” Ed Donnelly, founder of AmourCBD, told Newsweek.
His Illinois-based company markets CBD oils, edibles and creams to first responders and veterans. “CBD and hemp products can help our valued warriors enjoy the quality of life they deserve.”
The percentage of military veterans facing challenges from PTSD is staggering, but the Department of Veterans Affairs remains intransigent on allowing access to cannabis—the only treatment that provides relief for many. And there has been little progress on efforts in Congress to remedy the situation.
The Israeli Health Ministry approved use of cannabis to treat PTSD back in 2015.
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