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Congress Says Hemp Is Legal--US Navy, US Coast Guard and NASA Say NO GO

Just when Miss Lily thought we were making BIG strides with hemp, the US Navy, US Coast Guard and NASA knocked us back a few steps.  They have prohibited sailors, marines, active duty Coast Guard service members and space agency employees from ingesting any hemp products. Fortunately, this does not pertain to topical products such as those used on the skin or hair that do not penetrate the skin.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits adding CBD to dietary supplements, food or beverages since CBD is the drug used in GW Pharmaceutical’s Epidiolex.  Epidiolex was approved by the FDA in June 2018 for use by patients aged two years and older for treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two severe and rare forms of epilepsy. Since the FDA does not approve of CBD as a food additive or supplement, there are no federal regulations or guidelines for the manufacture or sale of these products, leaving their safety, actual ingredients and contents in question by the aforementioned institutions.

Unquestionably, hemp prohibition ended with the signing in December 2018 of the Agriculture Improvement Act (aka Farm Bill) and hemp-derived compounds such as CBD are no longer federally controlled substances. However, confusion surrounding the legality of hemp products remains. Since the definition of hemp agreed on by Congress is that it must contain 0.3% or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis known to get you “high”), there can be anywhere from non-detectible amounts of THC up to the legal limit of 0.3% in hemp-derived products.  Because even these small amounts of THC may cause a positive drug screen and some products actually have over the legal limit, the NASA human resources officials’ memo states “Please be aware that, the use of any compounds or substances not approved by the FDA cannot be used as a legitimate medical explanation for a positive drug test result. As a reminder, the use of illegal drugs by federal employees is not permissible under any circumstances, regardless of state and/or local laws; this includes the use of Marijuana or products that contains THC for recreational and/or medical purposes.”

In a release dated August 7, 2019, the Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs writes “Some of these products do not list all ingredients, making it impossible to know definitively how much CBD, THC or other synthetic cannabinoids they may contain.  Use, which is defined as oral ingestion, intravenous use, smoking/vaporization or any other method through which hemp-derived products may enter the body, could expose the user to THC.  It is possible to test positive for THC on a urinalysis by using a CBD or hemp product.  It can be impossible to determine where a CBD or hemp product was manufactured and what level of THC it may contain.  Even trace amounts of THC can accumulate in the body and be detected in a urinalysis screening.”


Even if the FDA changes its stance on CBD a Cannabinoid from the Cannabis plant, more precise testing methods will be required to prevent positive test results from occurring from ingestion of nominal and legal levels of THC. Obviously, there are still lots of issues to iron out regarding hemp.  In the meantime, all those who are subject to drug screens should beware of ingesting any CBD products unless you unequivocally trust your source as there are many mislabeled products on the market.

 Susan “Lily” Cromer is a hemp entrepreneur, advocate and educator focused on clarifying the confusion regarding hemp-derived products, FDA regulations, ethical marketing practices, and economic and environmental potential.  A native of Miami, Lily now resides in Roanoke, Virginia, except when traveling like a modern day Johnny Appleseed in the LilyHemp Mobile to spread the word on the goodness of hemp foods.  Look for her at fairs, festivals, concerts or out cruising around!