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Navy OKs CBD Use — Provided It’s Topical And Has Less Than .3% THC

In this photo taken Thursday, March 21, 2019, Gus Dabais stands outside his S...

Photo by Eric Risberg / AP

Above: In this photo taken Thursday, March 21, 2019, Gus Dabais stands outside his Sidewalk Wellness store in San Francisco. CBD oil-infused food, drinks and dietary supplements are popular even though the U.S. government says they're illegal and some local authorities have forced retailers to pull products.

The Navy is offering new guidance on products containing the active ingredient in marijuana, after a change in the law makes some products containing CBD legal under federal law.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer released new guidance for cannabidiol, or CBD, on Aug. 18, after the latest federal farm bill legalized products made from hemp-based CBD, back in December.

Listen to this story by Steve Walsh.

“Currently, we do have an influx of products coming out right now and we just want to make sure they are informed and they’re safe,” said Selle Butler, a chemist with the Navy Personnel Command, which oversees drug testing.

It is still against Navy regulations to ingest CBD or use products designed to penetrate the skin, like patches. CBD creams are now OK, provided they contain .3% or less of THC — the ingredient associated with the high produced by consuming marijuana products, she said.

Reported by Steve Walsh , Video by Nick Mcvicker

That caveat may open up a legal gray area in the Navy’s zero-tolerance policy, according to Jeff Carver, an attorney who represents military clients in San Diego, including those who fail a Navy drug test.

“Even different products are OK provided that it’s cream for the skin,” Carver said. “Shampoo for the hair — if it’s below .3%. That might pass. Well, that’s dangerous.”

The confusing language may make it tougher for the Navy to enforce its zero-tolerance policy for products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The new guidance came out Aug. 19. Carver hasn’t had a client claim that he tested positive because he used a topical cream. His advice to Navy personnel is to steer clear of any CBD product that doesn’t require a prescription.

The Navy has no evidence that using the topical CBD creams with less than .3% THC will cause a sailor to fail a drug test, Butler said.

Using marijuana remains strictly against Navy regulations. The other services have similar prohibitions, as marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The latest farm bill makes a distinction between CBD derived from hemp and products derived from marijuana, which has a higher level of THC.

As a sign of how quickly the thought on CBD is evolving, in November the public affairs staff for aircraft carrier USS George Washington sent out a release with the alarming headline "Cannabidiol: Don't Do It!"

The release warned sailors that there is no medical use for CBD, contradicting the Food and Drug Administration. Last year, the FDA approved the first medication containing CBD, Epidiolex, which is used to control epilepsy.


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Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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