On April 20, 2012, Purgatory Vodka, an alcoholic beverage containing hemp byproducts, became available for purchase throughout the United States, including at retailers on select military installations — until recently.
Brewed by Alaska Distillery Brewery, this vodka is distilled from a mix of 20 percent of denatured hemp seed from British Columbia, Canada, and 80 percent of barley seeds distilled from a multi-distilling and charcoal filtering process. According to their website, “The hemp seed used in Purgatory Vodka goes through a highly scrutinized (and regulated) process to ensure that no tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is contained in the product. Although the use, importation or manufacturing of marijuana is illegal in most of the United States, hemp by-products are not themselves illegal.”
However, Army Regulation 600-85, The Army Substance Abuse Program, Chapter 4-2p states, “this regulation prohibits Soldiers from using hemp or products containing hemp oil.” The failure of active duty personnel to comply with the prohibition of the use of these products is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ.
What must be stressed among military personnel is that even though Purgatory Vodka is said to be free of THC, and even though hemp by-products are not illegal in the civilian world, this gives zero justification to those in the military. It is the ‘prohibited use’ that Soldiers need to remember. Drinking the vodka will not nullify a positive drug test.
“The regulation is clear. Soldiers are not to involve themselves with any product that has hemp in it. Knowing that, if they choose to engage in using a substance that has it, they are automatically breaking the rules,” explained Kevin Mills, Fort Huachuca Army Substance Abuse Program manager.
While this product has been sold on other military installations, the Fort Huachuca Exchange General Manager Jeff Willis stated, “The Fort Huachuca Exchanges have never sold Purgatory Vodka or carried it in any of its facilities. [Army and Air Force Exchange Service] has taken action worldwide and has removed this product from the shelves.”
Mills added that even though Purgatory Vodka is available off post, the responsibility falls on the Soldier to ensure they are not ingesting a beverage that contains a prohibited substance. The label on the bottle clearly states “Distilled with Hemp Seed,” leaving no question of its contents.
For more information or questions, call the Army Substance Abuse Program office, 533.2071.