November 3, 2020

My CBD says it’s THC-free, Will I pass my drug test?


By Chuck Marting, Colorado Mobile Testing , Impairment Detection Academy, Host of Clearing the Haze podcast.

At the beginning of this third quarter I met with one of our clients who had been selected for a random DOT drug test. As we sat down, the driver who also happens to be the owner of the company, reached into his pocket and pulled out a small dropper bottle. The moment he did this, I immediately knew what it was and what he was going to ask me.

The owner explained that he suffered from severe back pain and was told by friends and his doctor that he should try CBD as a treatment for the pain. He then explained he had only been using this CBD product for three or four days and wanted to know if I would need the bottle “just in case” he came up positive for marijuana. He wanted to make sure the lab and MRO knew what he was taking and that the label reported on the product that it was “THC-free.”

First off, I told him he didn’t need to advise me of medications or anything he was taking, explaining that if any questions regarding his specimen come up, the MRO would contact him. Then, I asked “did you receive our email explaining that CBD products are not an acceptable medication or supplement if you are in a safety sensitive position?” The client stated, “Yes, I remember seeing the email, but I bought this at Walgreens, and it says it has no THC so I thought it would be OK to use.”

A Common Question

Does this story sound familiar? Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more common within the drug and alcohol testing industry. The questions that we find ourselves continually being asked are: First, can the lab tell the difference between CBD and marijuana? Second, if I can buy this in the store and it’s legal am I not OK to use it?

It doesn’t help that there isn’t a clear answer. A recent article by Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions titled “Cannabidiol and Drug Tests” reflects the uncertainty.

The article asks, “Will I pass a drug test?” The answer: “Maybe.” CBD by itself, the article explains, would not report positive on a drug test for marijuana or marijuana metabolite. However, in some states, CBD may contain up to 5 percent THC. If the CBD product contains THC and is significantly higher in concentration, it is possible that those products could cause a user to test positive.

It is important to know that under federal regulations, CBD or medical marijuana will not be considered an alternative medical explanation for a positive test. According to federal law, CBD is a schedule I substance and is illegal at the even though some states permit the sale of CBD.

In an article written by Charisse Jones for USA Today, Don Mihalek, executive director of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, stated that more than two dozen federal law enforcement employees have faced disciplinary action after testing positive for THC after using CBD products. “There’s no way to differentiate between THC in CBD oil and THC in marijuana,” Mihalek said, explaining that officers have turned to CBD products as an alternative to pain medication. “But with federal agencies having zero tolerance for positive drug test results, the agencies can’t afford to play guessing games.”

According to the FDA, “in addition to safety risks and unproven claims the quality of many CBD products may also be in question, many were found to not contain the levels of CBD they claimed.” The agency is currently investigating reports that some CBD products may contain unsafe levels of contaminants.

The bottom line for all DOT safety sensitive positions or non-DOT positions, where company policies have zero tolerance for marijuana or products containing marijuana, the best practice may be not to use CBD products at all.

Be Forewarned

Employees will ultimately choose for themselves, there  is information you can share to help them make the best decision:

  • Advise employees that they should review your company’s drug and alcohol policies regarding marijuana, marijuana products and CBD. (If as a company or employer your policies do not cover CBD usage, you may want to amend them.)
  • Give them a heads up about the potential of CBD causing a positive test, the consequences for violating drug and alcohol policies would be and how a violation may impact their position within the workplace.
  • Suggest that candidates for employment may want to exclude CBD products during their job hunt or until they know more about a prospective employer’s drug and alcohol policies.

Reports of CBD contributing to positive testing results are become more common. We need to not only stay up to date on this hot topic to ensure our clients are staying informed, but also continue our education to answer questions of concern from our clients and donors who are confused and wonder if they will pass their drug test or fail the test due to use of CBD products.