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Can CBD Products Cause a Failed Drug Test?

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is becoming an increasingly popular addition to many products. Its potential therapeutic effects include reducing anxiety, promoting sleep and controlling pain and epileptic seizures. In addition to being used for several health issues, CBD comes in many forms, including oils, beverages, vapes, cosmetics, edibles such as gummies and even pet food. A quarter of Americans have already tried CBD, and that percentage is likely to rise as CBD finds its way into more products.

CBD is extracted from the flowers and buds of marijuana or hemp plants. CBD accounts for up to 40 percent of the marijuana extract and does not have psychoactive properties, meaning CBD does not alter a person’s state of mind. Although CBD does not have psychoactive properties, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe to use. Possible side effects include reduced appetite, drowsiness and fatigue. The lack of psychoactive effects also doesn’t mean CBD use can be allowed in the workplace. That’s because the extraction processes and product labeling are not currently well-regulated. In this way, CBD products are similar to most nutritional supplements on the market, which have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure the contents of the product.

The FDA and CBD

The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety of our food supply and cosmetics as well as the efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products and medical devices. None of the CBD products currently sold over the counter have been approved by the FDA. Since we don’t know exactly what is in products containing CBD, workers should be careful about using these products. Also, since these products are not FDA-approved, there are no valid prescriptions for them, meaning a positive result on a workplace drug test cannot be overturned by a medical review officer (MRO).

How Can You Test Positive for THC from CBD?

Most drug test panels, including the one used for federally regulated drug tests, test for THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, not CBD. However, CBD products may contain trace levels of THC that could lead to a positive drug test. A 2017 study found that 18 of 84 CBD products (all purchased online) had THC levels high enough to potentially cause intoxication or impairment.

So how are you supposed to know whether the CBD product you’re using has enough THC in it to make you fail a drug test? There is no clear answer to this, which makes using CBD-based products in an industry where safety is paramount and drug testing is common particularly challenging.

If you are considering taking a CBD product, it’s important to remember the following:

  • If even small amounts of THC are in the product, there is a chance your workplace drug test can come up positive.
  • Products can have more THC than claimed on the label.
  • CBD can affect how the body metabolizes certain compounds. As a result, CBD users who also use marijuana may show higher levels of THC for a longer period of time than when using marijuana alone.
  • Over time, the small amount of THC allowed in CBD products could build up in the body to detectable levels.
  • THC is fat-soluble, so THC that isn’t immediately metabolized by the body will be stored in fat tissue and could result in a positive drug test.

While some people may get relief for various health ailments by using products with CBD, the concern is that some CBD products do in fact contain trace amounts of THC. Until there is some kind of oversight and/or regulation around products containing CBD, being able to pass a workplace drug test and also using CBD products will be a risk.

[Jamie Becker is the LHSFNA’s Director of Health Promotion.]

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