If you are a member of the U.S. Navy, you are not allowed to use any cannabis products whatsoever. This includes CBD products derived from hemp. The Navy’s policy in this regard has remained consistent over the years. Now, a recent announcement warning sailors and Marines to avoid certain hemp-infused energy drinks, only reinforces that policy.
It all boils down to a concern over hemp labeling. In other words, the Navy maintains that there is no way for sailors and Marines to know for sure whether a CBD product contains THC in any form. And until such time as they can, they are barred from consuming or possessing anything related to cannabis.
1. Hemp Is 100% Legal
No doubt the Navy’s policy is seen as archaic and prohibitionist by many in the cannabis community. After all, hemp is 100% legal throughout the United States. Even in restrictive states like Utah, where marijuana use is directly limited to medical need, hemp and hemp-derived products can be freely bought and sold without issue.
According to Pure Utah, a medical cannabis pharmacy in Payson, here is the problem: there are no hard and fast rules governing how CBD products are labeled. Therefore, a manufacturer unwilling to be transparent about Delta-8 THC in its product doesn’t have to disclose such information.
2. THC Isomers in the Lab
Federal law defines hemp as a cannabis plant with no more than 0.3% THC by volume. Plants with more THC are classified as marijuana. That is pretty straightforward. However, it turns out that hemp processors can synthetically derive THC isomers from hemp-sourced CBD (cannabidiol) in a lab. Delta-8 THC is one such isomer.
Delta-8 has the same molecular makeup as Delta-9, the THC cannabinoid that is illegal under federal law. The only difference between the two is how the molecules are arranged. Furthermore, Delta-8 does have intoxicating effects. They are not nearly as pronounced as those produced by Delta-9, but they are real, nonetheless.
This creates an equally real concern for the U.S. Navy. They do not want sailors or Marines using products with any THC isomers, either ignorantly or with full knowledge. That risk will continue to exist as long as the FDA fails to develop concrete labeling requirements for hemp-derived products.
3. Moving to Restrict Isomers
A small handful of states, realizing the problem of unregulated hemp labeling, have begun moving to restrict THC isomers. Some have already banned Delta-8 outright. Others are looking to regulate it as strictly as Delta-9 THC. But no matter how you look at it, the issue is still one of manufacturer transparency.
Manufacturers have already proven that they are willing to infuse CBD products with Delta-8 and not be transparent about it. And even those willing to admit putting Delta-8 in their products have been known to imply that the isomer represents a way to get around Delta-9 restrictions.
4. All the Cards on the Table
Cannabis rules and regulations are inconsistent in the U.S. We know that. Between federal-state conflicts and states exercising self-rule in the cannabis arena, things are a mess. The only way to change that is to come up with some sort of harmonized system. And for that to happen, all the cards need to be on the table.
The concern over hemp labeling is real. The Navy is not alone in its reticence about hemp and CBD products. And until consumers can know for sure exactly what is in the food, beverages, medicines, and health supplements they use, legitimate concern will remain. Manufacturers and the FDA can put it to rest.