Another Issue at the Navy Drug Screening Laboratory

When I first started practicing military law, the Navy had 4 Navy Drug Screening Laboratories (NDSL).

  1. NDSL Jacksonville – still open, though it has had issues in the past, it was generally thought to be the most well-run laboratory.
  2. NDSL Great Lakes – still open, has had at least 2 documented false positive reports and issues with amphetamine testing procedures
  3. NDSL San Diego – closed soon after reporting a false positive
  4. NDSL Norfolk – closed soon after media reports of employees falsifying testing record

What is surprising is that NDSL Jacksonville has had two drug testing issues in less than year.  Even more surprising is that the NAVY HAS NOT MADE THESE PUBLIC IN THE FORM OF BRADY DISCLOSURES.  Brady disclosures are memorandums distributed to military lawyers and commanders informing them of issues at the lab that may call into question the reliability of the lab’s testing procedures and reported results.

NAVY DRUG SCREENING LABORATORY JACKSONVILLE INCIDENT #1 – SEPTEMBER 2018

The first issue occurred in September 2018 .   The NDSL still outsources urinalysis testing of synthetic cannabis (think Spice) and when the results come back, the NDSL has to verify the results and then manually enter them into the drug testing portal, which then automatically sends the results to the command.  Unfortunately, a NDSL lab technician incorrectly entered the data, and a laboratory expert signed off on the incorrect data without performing his duties of comparing the results from the outside lab to the information entered in to the system by the tech.  The result was that the laboratory released a result that a member had tested positive on a military urinalysis for synthetic cannabis when, in fact, the member had not tested positive.

NAVY DRUG SCREENING LABORATORY JACKSONVILLE INCIDENT #1 – MARCH – MAY 2019

In March 2019, NDSL Jacksonville was notified that there were issues with its testing process for THC (marijuana).  Ironically, all of the NDSL and Army and Air Force labs do not use the same testing processes.  Talk about a lack of standardization?  As a result, the NDSL Jacksonville stopped testing for THC and sent all of its samples to NDSL Great Lakes for testing between approximately March 29 and May 13.

The issue involved mistakenly identifying THC in urine for CBD, an extract from hemp that was made legal under federal law by the Farm Bill in 2018.   Specifically, when performing an analysis of urine containing CBD and mixing it with certain chemicals used in this method, it may give a false THC result.  NDSL Jacksonville had been using this method since 2001, but the issue became more problematic once CBD was legalized under federal law.

So what’s the big deal?

As long as I have practiced military law (15 years), in courts-martial, boards of inquiry, and administrative separation boards, “experts” from the military drug testing laboratories – across the services, including NDSL Jacksonville – have testified under oath that the processes used by the drug testing laboratories are forensically reliable beyond all doubt and that the results they attest to are true and accurate.  They have excuses for any and all past errors or issues and pronounce that a review of the testing documentation shows no errors and that the results accurate.  This was the testimony given thousands of times between 2001 and 2019 by NDSL Jacksonville “experts” regarding THC when in fact the testing process flawed.  These results are then used to take the careers of Airman, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Coasties and, sometimes, put them in the brig and give them a federal conviction at court-martial.  The reality is that these laboratories are like all other laboratories – they have made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes in the future.  We should not accept questionable urinalysis results or the disproven word of a laboratory representative when something as an important as a military member’s career is on the line.

Attorney Patrick Korody spent 10 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy JAG Corps and has handled hundreds of military drug cases and positive urinalysis cases across all services.  If you have tested positive on a military drug test/urinalysis, call Korody Law for a free case evaluation. 904.383.7261.  We are your best military drug test defense.

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