Navy Says Use of Hemp, CBD Still Prohibited

Despite a new law legalizing hemp and CBD products, the Navy warned that it is still prohibiting use of these products.

The Navy warned Sailors and Marines this week that the use of hemp or cannabidiol (CBD) products are still prohibited despite a new law that went into effect at the end of last year.

On December 20, 2018, President Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, commonly known as the “2018 Farm Bill” into law.

The new law allows hemp cultivation and the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines and defines hemp as a cannabis plant that contains no more than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical compound in cannabis associated with psychoactive effects. With the passage of this legislation, hemp-derived products, including cannabidiol (CBD), have become widely available.

However, the Navy clarified that its policy has not changed with passage of the law, and use of all products derived from hemp or marijuana are still prohibited from use by Sailors and Marines.

“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 said.

The Navy said 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.

A policy message signed by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer (below) states that the use of hemp products — either by injection, ingestion, inhalation or other means, including absorption through the skin — would interfere with Navy and Marine Corps drug testing programs and “result in the reporting of unlawful THC levels.”

The Navy added that Sailors who test positive for THC or other controlled substances for which they have no valid prescription are subject to mandatory administrative processing and could receive a discharge characterized as “Other Than Honorable” (OTH), which can affect future veteran’s benefits and employment opportunities.

Additionally, the Navy reports unlawful drug users to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which could impact the ability to purchase firearms or ammunition in the future and said it is the responsibility of every Sailor to ensure that he or she is diligent in avoiding intentional or accidental exposure to THC and other prohibited substances.

The Navy’s prohibition on hemp and CBD does not apply to the use of topical products such as shampoos, conditioners, lotions, or soaps.

A copy of the Navy’s policy statement is included below.

R 071247Z AUG 19

ALNAV 057/19




RMKS/1. On December 20, 2018, the President signed into law the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, removing industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802(16)) and excluding from the definition of marijuana those hemp products containing up to 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a dry weight basis. THC in marijuana and in those hemp products containing more than 0.3 percent THC remain illegal.

2. Due to this change in the law, new hemp products are commercially available in the United States, the normal use of which could cause a positive urinalysis result. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not determine or certify the THC concentration of commercially available hemp products, such as cannabidiol (also known as CBD). Accordingly, these products maycontain appreciable levels of THC, yet omit any reference to THC on the product label and/or list an inaccurate THC concentration. 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.

3. Substance abuse by members of the Armed Forces is incompatible with military standards of good order and discipline, performance, and operational readiness. It is the goal of the Department of the Navy to eliminate substance abuse. The use of products containing or derived from hemp, may interfere with the Navy and Marine Corps Drug Testing Program and result in the reporting of unlawful THC levels in Sailors and Marines. In order to ensure military readiness and the reliability and integrity of the Drug Testing Program, the knowing ingestion (orally, intravenously, through smoking/vaporization, or through other means) of products containing, or products derived from, hemp is prohibited. Failure by military personnel to comply with this All Navy Message (ALNAV) is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Article 92, Failure to Obey a Lawful General Order, and any other UCMJ article that may apply. Violations may result in administrative and/or disciplinary action.

4. Effective immediately:
a. Sailors and Marines are prohibited from knowingly using products made or derived from hemp (as defined in 7 U.S.C. 1639o), including cannabidiol (CBD), regardless of the products THC concentration, claimed or actual, and regardless of whether such product may lawfully be bought, sold, and used under the law applicable to civilians. Use means to inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body. Use includes the knowing use of hemp products designed to penetrate through the skin layer, including but not limited to transdermal patches.

b. This prohibition does not apply to the ingestion, consumption, or application of cannabinoid formulations approved as drugs by the Food and Drug Administration for which the Service Member has a valid prescription, such as dronabinol (Marinol, Syndros) and cannabidiol (Epidiolex). A prescription will be deemed valid if issued by the Service Members assigned Department of Defense approved medical service provider or a civilian medical professional whose care the Service Member was referred or directed to seek. c. This prohibition also does not apply to the use of topical products such as shampoos, conditioners, lotions, or soaps.

5. The primary point of contact for this message is Assistant Secretary of the Navy, (Manpower and Reserve Affairs), Drug Demand Reduction Program.

a. For United States Marine Corps Commands: Mr. Eric Hollins, or by phone at (703) 784-9526.
b. For Navy Commands: Ms. LaNorfeia Parker,, or by phone at (901) 874-4900.

6. This ALNAV remains in effect until superseded or cancelled, whichever comes first.

7. Released by the Honorable Richard V. Spencer, Secretary of the Navy.//


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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.