When most people think about getting drug tested for a job, they tend to think the test is looking for drugs like cocaine or cannabis. They might assume that hemp-derived CBD oil purchased over the counter from a convenience store won’t cause any problems, given it’s not supposed to contain any THC. But is it safe for someone to use CBD-rich products derived from hemp (with 0.3% THC or less) before a drug test? In reality, it’s risky, though the reasons why are complicated.
In order to understand the conundrum, it’s important to understand what the drug tests are looking for. Tests look for the analytes of drugs, rather that the presence of the drug itself. So, instead of testing for “cannabis” (which contains over 100 cannabinoids), tests look for just two of the cannabinoids: THCA and THC.
Tests aren’t looking for CBD, but given that there is currently no FDA regulation on CBD products (except the seizure drug Epidiolex), there’s no certainty that hemp-derived CBD oil is actually THC free. And over the past few months, reports have surfaced that people in multiple states have been fired or not hired due to testing positive for THC after using CBD-rich hemp products.
Guy DuBeau, a Wisconsin-based attorney who has written legal advice for people whose CBD usage resulted in a failed drug test, said that a big reason these failures happen is because hemp-derived CBD products are not regulated.
“You are getting companies importing stuff that is supposed to test as hemp, but it actually tests at three to four times the amount of THC it should have,” DuBeau said.
“This is something we need to figure out on the federal level so people can actively take CBD,” Rouse said, adding that she has been “in conversations with Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office,” specifically about the issue of raising the testing limit for THCA on Department of Transportation drug tests.
Currently, the Department of Transportation mandates a very low testing limit of 50 nanograms of THC per milliliter (ng/mL) of blood. Rouse has proposed to McConnell’s office that the department raise its testing limit to mirror the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), who does the drug testing for Olympic athletes. In 2013, WADA increased its testing limit to 150 ng/mL of THC.
“I am a small person and I take 100 milligrams of CBD a day,” Rouse said. In that dose of CBD, there’s a small enough amount of THC where Rouse said she “would fail a drug test by the [Department of Transportation], even though I am not actually taking THC and not being intoxicated by it.”
An individual’s body type and metabolism matter, too. “If you have more muscle and less fat, cannabinoids will not stay in your body as long,” said Rouse.
Ultimately, the experts recommended that if you are using high doses of CBD products that contain trace amounts of THC, you should discontinue use at least a week before you anticipate a drug test to minimize the risk of a false positive. Rouse suggests that if you get one, request “a confirmatory test,” which does a better job of distinguishing between different cannabinoids, but also has a lower limit of 15 ng/mL.
Given the prevalence of this issue, Rouse’s home state of Kentucky is currently considering a bill, which, if passed, would give CBD users in that state protections in hiring and firing. However, as Rouse said, the drug-testing reform and CBD regulations would have to be enacted at the federal level, not just in the states, before people can consume hemp-derived CBD worry-free.
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Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE