U.S. Army turns to hemp for sniper uniforms

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New suits expected to help snipers “remain undetected within close proximity of the enemy forces.”

Members of the U.S. armed forces can’t use hemp, even in products as innocuous as shampoo, but army snipers could someday be covered in the wonder fibre if a request for information (RFI) exploring its suitability for uniforms pans out.

Released in late June, the RFI notes the army if offering a contract opportunity for fiber, yarn and thread mills to submit information on fabrics that could potentially be used for sniper uniforms.

Specifically, the request relates to 22-kilogram count, three-ply jute or hemp yarn or twine in a natural colour, with the current demand being 365,760 metres.

“Interest is specifically in a yarn/twine/thread used to break up the sniper’s outline made from jute, hemp or similar natural fiber,” reads the RFI, which has been issued “solely for information-gathering and planning purposes” and “does not constitute a formal solicitation for proposals and will not directly lead to any contract awards.”

The idea behind the fibre hunt is to support the operational clothing for the Improved Ghillie System, suits that are lighter and more breathable than currently issued, but reportedly not always used, Flame Resistant Ghillie System.

“The IGS is a new and improved sniper concealment system developed to meet the concealment needs of the sniper community,” the RFI breezily notes. The new suits are expected to better conceal snipers and scouts during missions and to help them “remain undetected within close proximity of the enemy forces.”

Musts for a submitted fibre include that it cannot “have finishes that would prevent modification using standard materials in the Army supply system and non-standard materials not typically found in the Army supply system (e.g. dyes, paints).” Though the fibre can be imported, the yarn must be spun in the U.S.

Other key attributes that the army is looking for include that the material does not present a health hazard to soldiers, is suitable for prolonged, direct skin contact and does not add a significant amount of weight.

All gathered “submissions may be used by the government in formulating a program to assess the performance of the submitted materials and design concepts for functionality in the above defined environments,” the RFI reads.

Fibre submissions must be submitted to the Senior Engineer of Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment no later than 3 p.m. on July 27.

Hemp used to manufacture a wide range of products

Hemp fibres have been used for manufacturing, among other things, clothes, bags, shoes, paper, building materials and insulation, per Hemp Foundation. Benzinga adds to the long list organic body care, health foods, biofuels and plastic composites.

Furthermore, an article posted on Sensi Seeds website maintains that “hemp allows for a more environmentally friendly production process.”

Whatever its uses and benefits, the industrial hemp market appears poised to be very big, indeed. Grand View Research reports the size of the global market was estimated at US$4.13 billion ($5.3 billion) in 2021 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16.8 per cent from 2022 to 2030.

The U.S.’s so-called Farm Bill, which took effect in late 2018, allows hemp cultivation.

It “puts no restrictions on the sale, transport or possession of hemp-derived products, so long as those items are produced in a manner consistent with the law,” notes information from Brookings. Hemp-derived products can also be transported across state lines for commercial or other purposes in the U.S.

‘Hemp’ can only have a limited amount of THC

But to be considered hemp, as is the case in Canada, hemp can contain no more than 0.3 per cent THC.

It’s a challenge that can result in government authorities requiring farmer to ditch their crops if their hemp is “hot.” That was the case in 2020 when Arizona’s Department of Agriculture reported that about 41 per cent of the plants it analyzed failed to keep THC levels below the 0.3 per cent.

Hot or not, the U.S. Department of Defense reaffirmed its ban of hemp and CBD more than two years ago.

The department announced “a new policy barring all active and reserve service members from using hemp products, including CBD,” Gray Robinson consultants reports, citing a memorandum to secretaries of the army, navy and air force.

Legal or not, hemp banned in U.S. armed forces

The memo noted “that regular use of lawful hemp products could result in a positive urinalysis test for THC,” pointing out that both marijuana and hemp are derived from the cannabis plant.

“Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice clearly states that using, possessing and distributing any product derived from the cannabis plant is prohibited for military members at all times and all places,” according to Veterans Authority.

“It is against military regulations for members of the active duty military or currently serving members of the Guard or Reserve to use any CBD products,” per the website Military.com.

The directive was out of step with a spending bill put forward in the U.S. House of Representatives two years ago that, if signed into law, would have allowed military members to use hemp and CBD products, per Marijuana Moment.

The proposed amendment noted: “The Secretary of Defense may not prohibit, on the basis of a product containing hemp or any ingredient derived from hemp, the possession, use or consumption of such product by a member of the Armed Forces,” if the crop is legally hemp.

But navy rules noted those who breach the rules could face mandatory administrative processing, including “other than honorable” discharge.

Region: United States