As more states legalize marijuana, interest in CBD oil has grown substantially. In fact, the Brightfield Group estimates that the hemp-CBD market could hit $22 billion by 2022. Short for cannabidiol, CBD is said to help with stress, anxiety, restlessness, and aches and pains – without the mind-altering effects of marijuana. Although it is growing in popularity, especially when added to foods and drinks, its legal status is still fuzzy. Last month New York City became the first major city to crack down on restaurants offering products containing CBD oil (source). To comprehend why CBD is legally questionable and how it might affect the results of a drug test, you need to understand the difference between CBD and THC.
The Difference Between CBD and THC
Although THC and CBD are both found in plants of the genus Cannabis, there is a difference between CBD and THC:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, i.e., the part that makes people feel high. It is a cannabinoid.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid of cannabis. Because it is not psychoactive, it doesn’t produce the high associated with THC. CBD can be made from marijuana or hemp, which are both part of the Cannabis family.
Both compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system and stimulate the CB1 receptor in the brain (source). They have the same molecular structure, but their atoms are arranged differently, which impacts how they affect the human body. The primary difference between CBD and THC is that one is psychoactive and the other is not. This may be because THC stimulates the CB1 receptor a lot (generating psychoactive effects), while CBD stimulates the CB1 receptor very mildly (source).
CBD is said to assist with anxiety, cognition, movement disorders, and pain. However, the effects of CBD are still up for debate; more clinical trials are needed to demonstrate that CBD truly can benefit people who suffer from anxiety, stress, and pain (source).
The Legality and Regulation of CBD Oil
While it’s gotten a lot of buzz recently, CBD oil resides in a legal gray area.
CBD can be an extraction of marijuana, which is federally classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic. As a result, if the CBD is from marijuana, it is illegal on the federal level. Many states have passed additional laws about the medical and recreational use of marijuana, so it’s important to be familiar with the laws in your state. In states where marijuana is legal for recreational or medical purposes, people can typically buy marijuana-derived CBD legally.
CBD can also be derived from hemp, which is now legal nationwide due to the 2018 Farm Bill. Due to this new law, many people argue that hemp-derived CBD is legal across the United States. The law removed hemp plants from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and changed it to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The DEA states that CBD is federally illegal, but the agency won’t bother going after people who possess or use CBD.
So what does the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have to say about CBD? The FDA categorizes CBD as a drug, which makes it illegal to use it in foods or health products until it receives the FDA’s approval. The FDA has approved one CBD based drug, Epidiolex, for two rare forms of childhood epilepsy. The FDA will likely not approve additional CBD products until its unsubstantiated health claims are proven to be safe and effective. And despite being marketed as a supplement, CBD does not legally qualify as a supplement under the FDA’s rules (source). Because there are no labeling standards, proven effects, or regulated dosage guidelines for CBD oil, the FDA has been working with legislators on how to regulate CBD products. It is important for people interested in purchasing CBD oil to remember the customer adage “Let the buyer beware.”
Is it true that the FDA has approved two cannabinoids?
Yes. The FDA has approved two man-made cannabinoid medicines in pill form. Dronabinol and nabilone are both used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. They differ from CBD oil because they are created in a controlled lab and fully regulated. Doctors prescribe these cannabinoids, and patients may pick up prescriptions at their local pharmacy.
CBD & Drug Tests
Does CBD Oil Show Up on a Drug Test?
The difference between CBD and THC plays a crucial role here. When marijuana is included in the panel of a drug test, the test screens for THC or THC metabolites – not CBD. CBD is unlikely to show up on a standard drug test. However, CBD-sensitive drug tests are available. The company must commission this specialized test and will likely pay an additional fee to include CBD.
That said, some CBD products contain small amounts of THC. If an individual consumes a CBD product that contains a sufficiently high concentration of THC, he or she may test positive for marijuana. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the recommended cut-off level to pass a drug test is 50 ng/mL. When THC is included in CBD products, the level of THC rarely meets that threshold, so consumers are unlikely to test positive for THC/marijuana unless they consume high levels of CBD.
Finally, it’s important to remember that because CBD products are not currently regulated, you can’t know exactly what they contain. (In fact, they may not even contain CBD!) So if you take CBD before a drug test, there is always a risk of a positive result on a drug test.
What If Someone Tests Positive for THC Due to CBD Use?
If a drug test participant tests positive for THC due to the consumption of CBD products, there isn’t any way for that person to prove the results were produced by CBD and not marijuana. In addition, because it is not a prescription drug, CBD oil is not considered an alternative medical explanation for a positive test result on a federally mandated drug test. So Medical Review Officers (MROs), who are under the rule of the Department of Transportation (DOT), will not amend the results of a drug test based on that claim. They may only note that it’s possible the positive result stemmed from the use of CBD oil. Based on their individual drug policies, companies may then decide what to do moving forward.
While some individual states have legalized cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes, it is still up to employers to decide what they will (and will not) tolerate in the workplace in regard to drug use. Employers must stay informed regarding the legality of cannabis and derivatives like CBD. It is important that employers continually review and revise their company’s substance abuse policy to ensure that the language accurately reflects the company’s position on the use of CBD products.
If you need assistance with your company’s drug testing policy, contact Tomo Drug Testing for help. Based in Springfield (MO), St. Louis (MO), Kansas City (MO), Indianapolis (IN), and Evansville (IN), we offer customized solutions to make drug testing simple, and our nationwide network of clinics and providers allows Tomo Drug Testing to be available anytime, anywhere. For a free needs analysis, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help!