Features, Health and Safety, Municipal Government, New York

The Boom in CBD Products and the Potential Problems for Drug Tested Employees

October 1, 2020

By Andy Johnson Fund Administrator of the TCS Fund

New York, NY​ – On any given day the typical American will see multiple signs, ads, and Internet postings about cannabidiol, or its better-known name; CBD.  CBD is derived from cannabis, which can be found in both marijuana and hemp.  Unlike the other substance derived from cannabis; THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it can’t get the user high, however, it can make the user feel relaxed – which is how it found its way into a variety of products touted to promote wellness by providing pain relief and reducing anxiety.

Over the past several years many celebrities have expressed their fondness for CBD products; from Seth Rogan to Gwyneth Paltrow to Mike Tyson.  In fact, in a recent NY Times interview, the “Domestic Goddess” herself; Martha Stewart casually mentioned that she eats 20 of her new brand of CBD gummies a day.

There are a variety of ways to take CBD including ingesting it by eating it (gummies like Martha’s are becoming increasingly popular) or applying drops of CBD oil under the tongue or applying topical cremes to the skin and even though inhaling it.  These properties have made CBD a popular new added ingredient to supplements, beauty products, food items, beverages, and even pet products.  Supplements are the most common CBD-based products sold in the U.S. followed by topical products.

In the U.S. sales are CBD product sales are booming with sales of roughly $5 billion last year alone, an increase of over 700% from 2018, with projected sales of $20 billion by 2023.  Sales forecasts like this have caused hundreds of companies to jump into the CBD product market and “knock off” products abound everywhere, especially on the Internet.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has weighed in on the CBD product craze in several ways including warnings to the public that “Consumers should beware purchasing and using any [CBD] products” and by issuing warning letters to companies because their products contained more CBD than was indicated on the product label.

The ready access to CBD products has made them popular among many groups such as seniors and athletes, but one group that should not be using CBD products is workers who are subject to drug testing.  Many CBD products contain trace (or higher) amounts of THC and when THC builds up in the body (via being stored in fat cells) the result can be a drug test positive for THC.

It could be argued that claiming that CBD caused your THC positive drug test is the new “my dog ate my homework”, a great argument but it still won’t change the outcome.  Our agency works with many unions and companies that employ workers subject to drug testing and we are seeing increasing numbers of positive drug tests in workers who use CBD products.  When I recently spoke to a Medical Review Officer about this issue, he confirmed that his company is also hearing the same thing.

In February the Department of Transportation Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy issued a notice regarding products that contain CBD.  This guidance can be summed up in the following three sentences from that notice:

  • “The labeling of many CBD products may be misleading because the products could

contain higher levels of THC than the product label states. The Food and Drug

Administration (FDA) does not currently certify the levels of THC in CBD products, so there is no federal oversight to ensure that the labels are accurate.”

  • ….CBD use is not a legitimate medical explanation for a laboratory-confirmed marijuana positive result. Therefore, Medical Review Officers will verify a drug test confirmed at the appropriate cutoffs as positive, even if an employee claims they only used a CBD product.

So, buyer beware, especially if your job requires random or post-accident drug testing.  That relaxing feeling you get from a CBD laced skin cream could come to a crashing end if you are suspended or even fired for failing a drug test.

Andy Johnson is the Fund Administrator of the Teamster Center Services Fund (TCS Fund). The TCS Fund provides employee assistance, behavioral health case management, and a behavioral health treatment network to over 30,000 Teamsters and their families.  Andy can be reached at ajohnson@teamstercenter.com.  





October 1, 2020

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