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DEA Doubles Down on Decision To Fire Agent Who Tried To Replace Opioids With CBD

The Drug Enforcement Administration recently defended their decision to fire an “outstanding” special agent fired earlier this year for using CBD oil to replace his pain medication, a decision which caused him to test positive for cannabis on a drug test.

According to court documents, Special Agent Anthony Armour filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in May of this year against the DEA. A response brief was filed recently in which the DEA fully defends their decision to terminate Agent Armour, calling his actions “reckless” and “incompatible with the agency’s sole mission to enforce our Nation’s drug laws.”

Armour served as a DEA agent for 15 years before he was subjected to a random drug screening which came back positive for THC. Armour reportedly came forward voluntarily with samples of the CBD products he was using for lab analysis, two out of three of which came back under the .3% THC limit set by the Controlled Substances Act, and the third came in at .35% which is within the acceptable margin for error. 

Armour also stated in his lawsuit that he was using the CBD products to treat pain from injuries sustained playing football and during his career in law enforcement. Needless to say, as a member of the DEA, Armour was fully aware of the dangers of opioids and alleged that he was using the CBD as an alternative to his pain medication, pursuant to the 2018 Farm Bill which legalized commercial hemp products (and a whole slough of other weird shit).

“For Armour and many others in this country, this change meant new opportunities—particularly as to CBD, a non-THC cannabinoid in the cannabis plant,” the lawsuit said. “Armour hoped CBD oils could play a role in his pain management. That he did is unsurprising. From Martha Stewart to Wrigley Field, CBD has become embedded in American culture.”

Despite Armour’s rationale and despite the lawsuit he filed, the DEA doubled down on their decision in their court response brief filed August 30.

“Mr. Armour was an outstanding DEA agent when he took a chance in 2019. He believed it was unlikely that CBD products would cause him to test positive for marijuana, but he knew it was possible, and he bought those unregulated products on the internet and consumed them anyway,” the brief said. “Mr. Armour argues that he ‘displayed negligence or poor decision-making,’ and DEA properly held him accountable for his poor decisions when they resulted in a verified positive drug test. DEA lost trust in Mr. Armour and properly removed him.”

The response brief was filed just days prior to the Department of Health and Human Services official recommendation to move cannabis to Schedule 3, putting the ball into the DEA’s court to decide whether or not to honor the recommendation of the DHHS. It is not immediately clear if rescheduling cannabis would allow federal employees like Agent Armour to use cannabis products. 

The filing went on to say: “This was an unfortunate ending to a lengthy and productive career in Federal law enforcement. But DEA is charged with enforcing our Nation’s drug laws, and Federal employees are responsible for what they put in their bodies. There is a clear and genuine nexus between a removal for illegal drug use and the efficiency of the service at a drug enforcement agency.”

The DEA has clarified since terminating Armour in 2020 that agents are under no circumstances to use any CBD products for exactly this reason. All hemp contains at least trace amounts of THC (hemp and cannabis are the same plant after all) and thus, it’s far too easy to accidentally or mistakenly test positive for THC while using such products. They have also clarified that synthetic cannabinoids and some of the hemp-derived cannabinoids are not legal products in their purview. Their tireless fight against opioid abuse also carries on, if not in a somewhat contradictory fashion.

“One wonders then, why they are in federal court defending the termination of a special agent who was taking these dangerous drugs off the street for doing nothing other than, for his pain, ingesting a product advertised as CBD oil that, unbeknownst to him, would test right at the border between hemp and marijuana—precisely because he didn’t want to use opiates,” an attorney for Armour said to Marijuana Moment on Friday.

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