Last updated: January 30, 2023
Should safety-sensitive employees worry about CBD use?
Forms of that question have made the FAQs on sites across the internet since the Agricultural Improvement Act (Farm Bill) passed in 2018. The Department of Transportation has received its fair share of them too—by every means imaginable.
So much so that it prompted the release of a compliance notification bulletin on February 18, 2020. The DOT wants to alert employees that while the broad answer to that question is yes, using CBD products can cause unwanted results.
It changed the definition
When the Farm Bill passed, hemp was removed from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. Hemp plants contain much higher levels of CBD than marijuana plants. However, that doesn’t change the fact that hemp plants contain a small level of THC, so—lawmakers set a standard.
Under the new law, hemp-derived products containing less than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) aren’t considered a controlled substance. If a product contains more than 0.3% of THC, it remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
That seems simple enough.
A problem remains
You find CBD products everywhere. Any company that cares to invest in producing them can jump right in. There’s no government regulation in place regarding production, however. That means that there’s no set standard by which to test the THC levels contained in the products.
They might cause someone to test positive for marijuana use.
There’s no way to separate the THC and CBD during the extraction process. While most hemp plants contain very low levels of THC, it makes sense that some contain higher levels. With no way to separate the THC, those plants containing higher levels may be over the 0.3% limit.
Furthermore, because THC remains in the system for extended periods dependent on frequency of use, it’s possible that the level will accumulate. This too could cause a positive reaction to a drug test.
Proceed with extreme caution
The purpose of the DOT’s bulletin release was to outline the following information.
- The DOT requires testing for marijuana (THC) not CBD.
- Product labeling may be misleading as there’s no set standard for product testing. These products can easily contain higher levels of THC than indicated.
- The DOT does not authorize marijuana use for any reason—even if consumed unknowingly within a CBD product.
As CBD products continue to flood the market, safety-sensitive employees that are regulated to drug testing should exercise caution when using them.
Those positions include:
- School bus drivers
- Truck drivers
- Train engineers
- Transit vehicle operators
- Aircraft maintenance personnel
- Fire-armed transit security personnel
- Ship Captains
- Pipeline emergency response personnel
They test for THC not CBD
THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. It’s proven to cause a variety of side effects including lethargy, delayed reactions, and trouble focusing. It can also negatively impact decision making and motor skills.
The length of impairment varies between one and three hours.
In its bulletin, the DOT stressed that although safety-sensitive employees are tested for marijuana use, not CBD use, it’s entirely possible that the product they take can contain high levels of THC. THC levels can also build-up within the body.
And, in short, either of these cases can cause a positive drug test result.