He uses CBD to treat his cancer. Now his job is up in smoke.

Matt Saintsing
October 03, 2018 - 6:16 pm

Olivia Vanni/Naples Daily News via USA TODAY NETWORK

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A Vietnam veteran and career public servant is in a fight to get his job back at an exclusive military school after treating his cancer with cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of cannabis. 

Henry Cobbs, 77, learned last month he would lose his position as dean of academics, a title he's held for more than eight years, at the Air Force Special Operations School (AFSOS), for vaping a chemical that can’t get you high, to treat his prostate cancer. 

Photo Courtesy of Henry Cobbs

“I wasn’t going to put chemo in my body,” Cobbs tells Connecting Vets. Instead, he consulted with an army of doctors and decided, with the recommendation of a physician, to try CBD oil. 

Cobbs, who rounded out a 22-year Air Force career in 1982, has dedicated his life to public service and earned two master’s degrees and a Ph.D.

But on May 21st, he was given Notice of Removal proposal from his position by Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Masaitis. His crime being his chosen regiment of cancer treatment: CBD. His termination was official in August. 

The provision used to fire him is Executive order 12564 signed by Ronald Reagan in 1986. While, Sec. 7 (c) defines “illegal drugs” as those listed as Schedule I or II, including marijuana, Cobbs says he’s using CBD within the legal boundaries. 

That’s because, according to the same section, “The term ‘illegal drugs’ does not mean the use of a controlled substance pursuant to a valid prescription or other uses authorized by law.” In other words, according to Cobbs, his CBD use is protected, even as a federal employee. 


“Its cherry-picking,” says Cobbs, “as they only take the provision that supported their intent.”

Photo Courtesy of Henry Cobbs

Cobbs says he was “prescribed” CBD from Dr. Ryan McWorter in Alabama, and a letter was sent from the physician to Masaitis in support of his CBD use. 

Ciara Travis, a spokeswoman for the 492d Special Operations Wing, told Connecting Vets in an email since “disciplinary actions are considered confidential” she is “not at liberty to discuss” them. However, she did add “the current state of the federal law is that medicinal use of marijuana and marijuana derivatives is not legal.” 

“We will continue to follow the law and expect our employees to do the same,” says Travis, “We are committed to providing a drug-free workplace for our employees."

Cobbs says he does not smoke marijuana flower or any other marijuana derivative that contains THC, the high-inducing component in marijuana. 

“As a veteran, a citizen, and a human being, Henry Cobbs has an inalienable right to self-care,” says Eric Goepel, founder, and CEO of Veterans Cannabis Coalition, a non-profit group that advocates on behalf of veterans. “Federal cannabis prohibition has destroyed millions of lives and cut short millions more, on the basis of a demonstrable lie: that cannabis has no medical value and a high potential for abuse.”

Photo Courtesy of Henry Cobbs.

Goepel adds that many veterans find themselves in the position of adhering to arbitrary federal employment standards involving marijuana use, “while having easy access to incredibly powerful and addictive legal drugs that they are forced to substitute for a low-risk, low-harm, and high-benefit substance.” 

Where it stands now, Cobbs has filed an appeal with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, a government arm that shields federal employees from abuses. That appeal is pending currently, and the Board has up to 180 days to act. In the meantime, Cobbs is left unable to work, but he says it isn’t about the money. 

“To hell with the job, they want me to choose cancer over employment?” Cobbs asks incredulously. “Are you crazy?” 

Contact us about this article or share your story at gethelp@connectingvets.com.