The Department of Defense (DOD) seemingly has an issue with their enlisted personnel eating healthy foods – and that had an onerous effect for one Air Force major that led to his general court-martial.
Now before the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, the nation’s highest military court is contemplating the effectiveness of the Air Force’s ban on consuming any snacks containing hemp seeds or products that were made from hemp seed oil.
Joseph Pugh, the Air Force major convicted of dereliction of duty by a panel of officers at a general court-martial for eating a Strong & Kind granola bar, had his case heard by the Court of Appeals on Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C.
Per DOD regulations, all service members are prohibited from using any controlled substances. Those “controlled substances” included marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids – but not hemp-based products.
Less than consistent, or easy to comprehend, each branch of the armed services has their own pet peeve.
Which Branch Bans What?
- Air Force – Hemp Oil/Seeds/Products
- United States Army — Hemp Oil/Seeds/Products
- United States Coast Guard – Hemp Oil/Seeds/Products
- United States Navy – No Formal Hemp Policy
- The United States Marine Corps – No Formal Hemp Policy
Ubiquitously available in an expansive list of health food products, snacks made from hemp seeds or its oil can be purchased in grocery stores from coast-to-coast … and even at commissaries operated by the Defense Commissary Agency. A popular plant-based protein source for health-conscious individuals, hemp-based products raked in approximately $688 million in 2016.
At the root of this hemp case is the potential confusion of a false-positive during a DOD drug test and whether the military services should ban the consumption of all hemp-based products.
In the original court-martial case, the judge granted the defense’s motion to dismiss the charges after conviction. Explained in his ruling, the judge stated, “there is simply no credible evidence to believe that these legal, commercially available products pose the slightest threat to the integrity of the Air Force’s drug testing program.”
Less than pleased by the outcome of the first trial, the United States Government appealed the initial decision under Article 62 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, arguing the initial judge “abused his discretion by dismissing the Additional Charge and its Specification, when he found that Air Force Instruction (AFI) 90-507, Military Drug Demand Reduction Program, which bans the ingestion of hemp seeds, is overly broad, serves no valid military purpose, and did not have a sufficient nexus between military necessity and the duty the AFI sought to impose.”
To ban or not to ban hemp … that is the appellate court question.
Potentially setting future policy for the armed services, the appellate court has been tasked with deciding whether or not the lower court’s ruling – dismissing the original charge – was erred. While a ruling in favor of Major Pugh would establish a legal precedent for future cases, the court has the option of ruling in favor of the major without addressing the Air Force’s hemp seed ban.