The Department of Justice has rescinded a DEA decision to fire a special agent who was let go due to a positive reading for CBD on a drug test.
DEA special agent Anthony L. Armour will be re-hired as a special agent and be reimbursed for back pay and legal expenses after a years-long court battle that stretches back to 2019 when a routine drug test showed he had been using CBD, which Armour maintained in court was for the purpose of treating chronic pain in lieu of highly-addictive opioid based painkillers.
“I’m excited to be getting back to work at DEA,” Armour said to The New York Times. “I hope to finish my career at DEA by helping its mission in taking dangerous drugs like fentanyl off the streets.”
Armour’s battle with chronic pain goes back to an injury he sustained during his college football career. He was also injured on the job as a DEA agent in a car crash during a surveillance operation, after which he suffered from back pain and a sprained neck. He ordered CBD products and a vaporizer from the internet, under the impression that he was not taking any illegal risks as the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp products.
“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,” a portion of 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.”
After he failed the drug test, Agent Armour turned the CBD products he had ordered into his superiors. Under federal law, hemp-derived products are defined as such if they contain less than 0.3% THC (please follow these handy-dandy little hyperlinks if you want more information on the clusterfuck of loopholes the Farm Bill created with regard to hemp-derived cannabis products). Of the three different hemp-based products Agent Armour turned in, court documents showed that two of them tested within the 0.3% THC range but one of them tested above the allowed threshold at 0.35%, which could be due to the notoriously unreliable potencies of hemp products and the methods by which they are tested.
The DEA even went so far as to double down on their decision years into the lawsuit in late August of 2023. They filed a court brief defending Agent Armour’s termination just days before the Department of Health and Human Services officially recommended the federal rescheduling of cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3. The DEA also issued an official notice to all DEA employees after Armour’s termination to avoid all CBD products despite their federally legal status.
“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 DEA 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.”
Despite a years-long fight to keep Agent Armour off the payroll the DEA has agreed to reinstate him and pay him $470,000 in back pay and legal fees, according to the New York Times who obtained a copy of the court filings from earlier this month. Agent Armour told the New York Times he still sees value in using CBD for pain management but that he will consult a medical professional for viable alternatives upon his return to work.
“Federal drug testing policies—and importantly, attitudes about drug testing—have not caught up with the times. I’m not the only career law enforcement officer in this country with chronic pain, nor am I the only law enforcement officer that has turned to legal cannabis products to address pain,” Agent Armour said in court testimony in September. “Nobody should have to choose between suffering pain and serving our country.”