HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Hemp seed products are off limits to airmen at Hill Air Force Base and have been for years, but proponents of the products say prohibition is unnecessary and likely based on antiquated stereotypes.

On April 9, Hill posted an advisory on its website, reminding airmen that products which include hemp seed or hemp oil are to be avoided because they could impact military readiness.

According to the advisory, the hemp ban has been in effect since the late 1990s, but gained attention in late 2013 when news reports highlighted the Air Force's prohibition of a popular yogurt made by Chobani called “Blueberry Power Flip.” Airmen were told to avoid the yogurt because it contained hemp seeds and walnuts that could be mixed with it.

The new Hill advisory says some popular new nutrition and snack bars recently have been added to the list of banned products because they also contain hemp seed.

”The Air Force has a longstanding policy in place that prohibits military members from ingesting any product, regardless of manufacturer, that contains or is derived from hemp seed or hemp seed oil," the advisory says. "Military members are not prohibited from ingesting other products not containing or derived from hemp seed or hemp seed oil."

An official Air Force instruction says the hemp seed products “may contain varying levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active ingredient of marijuana that is detectable under the Air Force Drug Testing Program.”

The advisory says that in order to ensure military readiness, “the ingestion of products containing or products derived from hemp seed or hemp seed oil is prohibited."

Sue Smith, Hill’s Drug Demand Reduction Program manager, said only the new hemp-based products prompted Hill to issue the hemp ban reminder and there has not been any recent spike in positive drug tests. 

While the Air Force cautions about hemp seed and its possible tie to failed drug tests, those doing business in the local hemp industry say such a scenario is next to impossible.

Rich Richardson, CEO of Utah County-based Dose of Nature, sells legal cannabidiol, or ”CBD“ products, that are made from industrial hemp extract. Richardson’s products differ from hemp seed, which is often touted as a nutritional supplement and can be found regularly in products at health stores and other food stores. Hemp seed is high in omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids, Richardson said.

”A ban on hemp seed products doesn’t really make a lot of sense,“ Richardson said. ”That product is generally available at any health food store or places like GNC. It would in no way alter someone’s brain or account for a positive drug test. It’s nothing more than a nutritional supplement.“

The base advisory even cautions airmen that ”products containing hemp seeds can be found at health food stores, including health food stores and commissaries located on military bases.“

Smith said great efforts are taken to ensure Air Force bases don't carry hemp seed products, but ”sometimes health food stores and commissaries start stocking products without reading the ingredient label and unknowingly stock items that the Air Force doesn't approve.“

An airman ”cannot use the excuse ’I didn't know hemp was in the product,’ as they are held individually responsible that they are in compliance with all Air Force regulations,“ Smith said, reminding airmen to follow three simple words: ”Read the label.“

Smith said airmen caught consuming hemp seeds can be punished for disobeying the regulation. 

”The consequences for disobeying a regulation depend on the specific facts of each situation,“ she said. ”They could range from counseling the airman to the airman being subjected to criminal charges and removal from the Air Force.“

Richardson says hemp itself is often a confusing issue because of its association with marijuana and because of the number of different products that can be produced from it.

According to Wikipedia, hemp is a commonly used term for high-growing varieties of the Cannabis plant and its products, which include fiber, oil and seed. Hemp is refined into products such as hemp seed foods, hemp oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, paper and fuel.

Hemp is still illegal to grow in the United States under federal law, but a 2004 ruling by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found that the Drug Enforcement Administration could not regulate naturally occurring, non-psychoactive hemp.

Richardson’s product comes from refined and purified hemp paste made from commercially grown hemp plants grown outside of the United States. He says his product has a wide range of anti-inflammatory benefits and can help with things like seizures, anxiety and other neurological disorders.

Richardson says his products, while not psychoactive, could theoretically result in a positive drug test, but chances of that are ”infinitesimally small.“

”You wouldn’t be able to get any type of high, but I guess if you just ingested astronomical amounts, theoretically, depending on the sensitivity of the drug test, there may be a chance you could test positive,“ he said. ”But really it’s next to impossible. I think, because of (hemp’s) association with marijuana, there’s still an antiquated line of thinking about it.“

Rick Potts, Dose of Nature president, says bans on hemp products that are legal contribute to misconceptions.

”(Hemp) is a wonderful crop that has lots of different uses,“ he said. ”And I think there is a lot of misinformation out there that could be preventing people from using it that could really benefit from it.“

Both hemp seed and Dose of Nature’s CBD products differ from the cannabis oil used to treat epilepsy that Utah lawmakers made legal in 2014 after passing House Bill 105, which was sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville.

Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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