Using CBD Could Get NASA Employees Fired

Reasons why CBD could get NASA employees fired

NASA has announced that CBD remains off-limits for its employees, and its use could be grounds for dismissal. Image Credit: By Vladi333 on shutterstock.

Following a precedent set by other defense-adjacent federal government branches, NASA has announced that CBD remains off-limits for its employees, and its use could be grounds for dismissal.

Recently, NASA circulated a memo defining the agency’s stance on CBD, the same day that the Navy sent a similar memo that forbade its sailors and marines from using the cannabinoid. NASA’s guidance states that, because there are “no standards governing the manufacturing of products containing” CBD, employees taking such substances could also be ingesting enough THC to trigger a positive drug test.

“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,” the notice reads. “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 contain THC for recreational and/or medical purposes.”

The memo says that pre-employment drug testing is strict for employees in testing designated positions — these are positions that involve firearm handling and usage, sensitive information, explosives, and hands-on maintenance of mission-critical equipment such as rocket engines. In addition, all other NASA employees are subject to testing on the grounds of “reasonable suspicion and post-accident and/or unsafe practice testing.”

What Other Federal Agencies Have Banned CBD, and Why?

Several federal agencies associated with defense have been reiterating their positions on CBD in the post-Farm Bill era. The Air Force put out a memo concerning the cannabinoid in April, which was followed by guidance issued by the Navy that sought to make the legal status of CBD more explicit for its service members, writing that “all hemp and CBD products are strictly prohibited for use by Sailors” no matter the legal status. 

In the Army, the pre-Farm Bill prohibition on hemp-derived CBD still stands, which Patricia Deuster, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the federally-run Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, clarified in a press call in late August. Duester said that the non-intoxicating compound is “completely forbidden for use by any service member in any of the services at this point of time.”

Duester made reference to the tacit approval that mainstream acceptance has put on CBD. “It’s a real conundrum, and it’s going to be a major issue for the military because it is available [nearly everywhere],” she said in remarks first reported by “You go into any store, and you can find gummy bears with a supplement fact panel on it.”

The Air Force’s April guidance on CBD referenced a 2017 study on CBD products purchased online, which found that 21 percent of products in the study contained appreciable levels of THC. If one ingests enough THC to trigger a positive drug test result, federal employers are left with no options but to initiate a controlled substances protocol, which often ends in a dishonorable discharge.

Speaking with Stars and Stripes in April, Duester made reference to 100 medical incidents triggered by service members’ use of CBD products, involving emergency room visits and symptoms ranging from increased heart rates to hallucinations. These products often contained federally-illegal substances like THC. According to Duester, a positive test for THC is likely a career-ender for service members.

Elsewhere in the federal apparatus, a bill that would protect state-legal use of cannabis for federal employees is currently under House committee consideration, as reported by FedSmith. Congressman Charlie Crist’s (D-FL) “Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws” bill would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances list and allow states to regulate the plant as they choose, without federal interference.

Cannabis use in federal agencies has become an issue for veterans of the armed services, who make up nearly one-third of all federal employees.

Prognosticator Skopos Labs currently gives the bill a 2 percent chance of becoming law.

Ed Weinberg
Ed Weinberg
Ed Weinberg is an American journalist who’s written stories on everything from cannabis to textiles, architecture, urban exploration, and culture in Vietnam, where he spent seven years. Previous to freelance writing, he held senior editorial positions at Word Vietnam and the Vietnam Investment Review.

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