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Home : News
NEWS | Jan. 14, 2020

CBD can trigger positive drug test

By Staff Sgt. Tony Harp 193rd Special Operations Wing

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – Cannabidiol oil (CBD) is growing in popularity and increasingly used in health, beauty, cooking and pet products. Because it is a derivative of the cannabis sativa L. plant, commonly known as marijuana, it raises the question: Is it OK for service members and federal employees to use? The simple answer: No.

CBD products may contain tetrahydrocannabinol. They can cause Airmen to test positive for the presence of marijuana, which is illegal to consume under federal law and Air Force Manual 44-197, “Military Drug Demand Reduction Program.”

“Hemp products, including CBD oil, are becoming one of the latest hypes. I can’t check out at a convenience store without seeing a display next to the cash register,” said Col. Stacey Zdanavage, vice commander of the 193rd Special Operations Wing (SOW). “Members need to continue to be cognizant of the product ingredients they ingest. Consumption of these hemp products and byproducts are prohibited by the Air Force and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, whether ingested intentionally or inadvertently. As a reminder, a positive test for THC is a career-ender.”

As Zdanavage stresses, one of the problems for Airmen is that these products have become so readily available. The trouble is, while there have been claims of a wide range of health benefits, CBD products are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration and can contain varying levels of THC that may not be listed on the label.

According to a 2017 study of 84 CBD products sold online, conducted by Marcel Bonn-Miller, Ph.D., only 31 percent of product labels accurately reflected the CBD content, and 21 percent of those contained THC, even when product labels advertised zero THC.

Air Force leaders say gambling on these odds – with separation and loss of benefits to you and your family as consequences – isn’t worth the risk.

“Airmen accept the risk of ingesting THC when they use CBD products,” said Maj. Paul Luongo, deputy staff judge advocate for the 193rd SOW. “THC is a Schedule I controlled substance, and if discovered during urinalysis testing, Airmen are subject to severe disciplinary action. This includes the possibility of being reduced in rank after receiving non-judicial punishment or involuntary separation from the Air Force. Airmen are responsible for what they put in their bodies, and trusting a faulty label or using CBD for certain health benefits may not overcome the presumption of wrongful use if discovered during a lawful search.”

A quick online search of the Harrisburg area – where the 193rd SOW is located – yields many establishments selling hemp and CBD products. These range from grocery, health and pet food stores to gas stations, tobacco/vape shops and businesses that exclusively sell CBD oil products. Some coffee shops and restaurants are even making CBD available to add to food and drinks.

CBD oil is in many products – gummy bears, tea, vapes, lotions, bath salts and pet treats, to name a few. CBD alone is non-psychotropic, which means it doesn’t produce the high associated with other marijuana components like THC.

Although the levels may not be high, they can still result in a positive drug test, which can subject service members to disciplinary action. Some federal employees are subject to random drug testing based on the requirements of their positions and could be disciplined.

Having products containing THC, even pet products, may qualify as possession of a controlled substance, which is regulated under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and federal and state laws.

(Information from a secretary of the Air Force public affairs news release was used in this story.)