Maybe you’re a nurse, or a truck driver, or an athlete. Maybe you recently got out of college and you’re about to get accepted into your dream job. Or you recently got out of prison and you’re on parole, waiting until you can finally get back to your family. And then you get a routine drug test and expect everything to go smoothly when suddenly, you get notified that you’re fired, or not hired, or being sent back to prison. You’re stuck thinking, “What happened? I haven’t done anything wrong.” All you’ve taken is CBD oil to treat your medical condition that wasn’t resolvable by traditional meds. Unfortunately, many people today end up in these situations where a standard drug screening can’t tell the difference between an illegal chemical and CBD.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is the medicinal part of the cannabis plant that has been gaining notoriety in studies suggesting its wide spectrum of health benefits. It can be taken as a dietary supplement in many forms, such as tinctures, edibles, topical creams, skin patches, or inhalation. Unlike THC, which is the psychoactive get-you-high part of the plant, CBD placed onto time release patches is being used by more and more people to successfully treat legitimate health issues—such as chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, and epilepsy—in cases where other traditional pharmaceuticals have been less-than-helpful because of the unwanted side effects.
So why are people being punished for trying to better their own health?
It’s partially due to the flaws of standardized drug tests. Standard drug tests usually check for cannabinoids in general and, since THC and CBD are both cannabinoids similar in structure, it is possible that a test can mistake one for the other. Specialized tests that narrow it down to CBD do exist, but unfortunately are not commonly used.
Then there are also misconceptions by consumers and producers that lead them to believe that they are completely adhering to the law when distributing or consuming CBD oil. CBD derived from hemp—which contains far less THC than marijuana— is technically legal in most states, but it is not regulated by the FDA. This means that there is no one enforcing specific standards for companies who distribute such products to consumers.
This leads to another reason why people may be failing their drug tests—there is more THC in their system than they thought. CBD products sold over the counter should only contain less than 0.3 percent of THC to be in the legal range and to be low-risk for drug test detection. Using a full spectrum CBD rich hemp oil has THC inside of it, which is why people are switching to nano CBD, which is a pure CBD hemp isolate with virtually undetectable amounts of THC.
“Depending on what product you are taking and how much you are taking, THC can build up in the body,” says University of Illinois at Chicago toxicology expert Frank Paloucek. “If you aren’t regulated and you don’t manufacture under strict standards for testing, we are seeing that there are people coming out with a lot more marijuana THC in it than what people thought.”
Several CBD-distributing companies have actually been sued by customers who have gotten fired from their jobs because of failed drug screenings. One such case occurred in April, 2019, when a woman from Pennsylvania sued a company named Koi CBD LLC for claiming their products contained 0 percent of THC and not stating that it’s still possible to fail a drug test, which was what happened to her. Whether or not Koi’s claims were actually legitimate, the result still cost them. And it cost the woman her job.
These misconceptions and a lack of regulation and real attention to the issue can damage people’s lives, when they are not even committing any criminal acts.
Earlier this year, Victor V. Meyers, a criminal defense lawyer, spoke about one of his clients being at serious risk for violating their probation for using lawfully purchased CBD oil to help with severe health issues. This client was instructed to not use any controlled substance such as marijuana during probation. The client did not use marijuana but still ended up testing positive for cannabinoids during random drug screenings. The probation department did not believe that the client was being honest with them and filed a motion to violate the client’s probation, which could have led to jail time.
One solution that may help people—especially those who are on parole—who need to take CBD for medical issues is to acquire a medical marijuana license. In many parts of the U.S., the Department of Corrections states that “when a probationer has a valid medical marijuana card, they will not be drug tested for marijuana use.”
It should be more widely recognized that CBD does not incapacitate users, and that even if there are very small amounts of THC in a product, people may have their own right in choosing to take the CBD oil for their health benefit without being incriminated for infringing the law.