- While CBD is legal, the U.S. Department of Transportation has warned commercial drivers that it can show up in a drug test.
- CBD products are popular and only getting more so, but even though they are labeled as containing no THC, some may actually contain a little of the psychoactive ingredient.
- “Innocent ingestion or false labeling is not a valid medical excuse for a [positive] urine drug test,” the DOT said.
Driving while intoxicated is obviously illegal and dangerous. We’re not here to debate that. But there are legal limits (different in different jurisdictions) for how much alcohol someone can have in their system and still be considered okay to drive. When it comes to THC, the main psychoactive part of marijuana, it’s a big new world out there if you’re a federal regulator. Some drivers should be paying attention to what the Department of Transportation is doing to figure this all out. Spoiler alert: commercial drivers might want to lay off the CBD.
You’ve probably seen cannabidiol (CBD) oils, or other CBD products, being sold at gas stations and grocery stores, because they are pretty much everywhere these days. The claim is that these products can relieve pains and other issues, like anxiety. The Brightfield Group, a research firm focused on the CBD and cannabis industries, said last year that the CBD market is on track to grow to $23.7 billion through 2023. And that means more people are taking CBD products, and so more people are driving after they’ve done so.
Of course, CBD products are not supposed to get you high in any way, but that doesn’t mean that a drug test won’t pick up CBD artifacts. And, as of right now, the DOT is taking a zero-tolerance approach toward drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) who test positive. Actually, it’s more like a 0.3 percent tolerance. That’s because CBD products are required to use cannabis that contains less than 0.3 percent of THC on a dry-weight basis (in other words, the kind that will get you as high as smoking, say, oak leaves) based on the 2018 Farm Bill. That bill changed the definition of hemp so that it was not classified as marijuana, THC, and it also legalized cannabinoids (CBD) if they were non-psychotropic. That’s why, today, CBD companies highlight this low number as a way to make you feel safe about taking it.
AnandaHemp, which sells CBD oils, warns that taking their CBD oils may make you sleepy, but claims that “you should be able to drive after taking CBD Oil or Hemp Oil. Our CBD Oils contain less than 0.3 percent of THC and will have no psychoactive effects on your body.”
But during a virtual meeting of the DOT’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee on July 13, Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance policy advisor Sue Lenhard updated the public on the agency’s rules, and they are full of warnings for commercial drivers. “Some CBD products are being marketed with unproven medical claims and are of unknown quality and CBD & THC quantity,” she wrote. The DOT also maintains that “innocent ingestion or false labeling is not a valid medical excuse for a urine drug test at THCA confirmatory levels of 15ng/mL.” The trade publication Transport Topics reported on the meeting in a story titled, “Truck Drivers Should Beware of CBD.”
The Food and Drug Administration does not currently certify the levels of THC in CBD products, so the labels on CBD products could be misleading. In fact, the government tested 84 CBD products from 31 companies in 2017 and found that 21 of them were mislabeled and that a higher-than-advertised THC content was found in 18 samples.
Testing positive for THC in this case does not mean that a driver would be considered intoxicated—rather that they have, at some point in the recent past, ingested enough THC for it to show up on the test. And, if you’re considered a “safety-sensitive employee,” which includes school bus drivers, truck drivers, and transit vehicle operators, then a positive result could harm your employment status, with the DOT warning that the information will be sent to the DOT’s Drug and Alcohol Clearninghouse and remain on file for five years and that an employee may have to go through a Substance Abuse Professional program, as well as other return-to-duty drug tests and observations. Just a heads up.
Blanco, S. (2020, July 19). CBD products may not be as intoxicant-free as drivers think, DOT warns. Car and Driver. Retrieved from https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a33356684/commercial-drivers-cbd-products-dot-warns/
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