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CBD Might Not Cause a High, But Could Bring Trouble
By Terri Dougherty

Up to a third of adults use cannabidiol (CBD) products, which are marketed as a treatment for health conditions including anxiety, pain management, and insomnia.
While CBD products are legal, employees may not realize that they carry risks for their health and career.

CBD is a chemical present in cannabis plants, including hemp and marijuana. Another chemical in cannabis, THC, causes the high feeling. Hemp has a THC content of .03 percent or less, while marijuana contains more than .03 percent.

The small amount of THC in CBD products made from pure hemp wonít bring a high, but using over-the-counter CBD products isnít without risks.

Purity in question
The danger of using a CBD product relates to the lack of regulation for the CBD industry. There is one medication derived from cannabis that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Epidiolex, and it has been shown to be effective in treating childhood epilepsy.

CBD products sold in gas stations and strip malls are typically marketed as supplements rather than medication, however. They are not regulated by the FDA and could be contaminated with THC or other chemicals.

One study found that less than a third of CBD products had accurate information about CBD concentration levels on the label.

Drug test dangers
Because CBD products may be contaminated with THC, they could bring a positive drug test for marijuana.

If use of marijuana, as shown by a positive drug test for THC, violates your workplace drug and alcohol policy, employees might be surprised that their use of a CBD product puts them at risk of a policy violation.

Itís definitely a policy violation if your workers test positive and are commercial drivers covered by federal drug and alcohol testing regulations for the transportation industry. The Department of Transportation (DOT) makes it clear that covered drivers are not to use Schedule 1 drugs, including marijuana.

A tainted CBD product could contain enough THC to bring a positive test result for marijuana. The Department of Transportation (DOT) notes that the use of CBD is not a legitimate medical explanation for a laboratory-confirmed marijuana positive result.

The test will be considered positive, even if the employee claims a CBD product was the cause. The covered driver will face consequences for the positive test and cannot be allowed to drive until the return-to-duty process has been completed.

Health risks
In addition to bringing a positive drug test that could have an impact on an employeeís career, using CBD products carries health risks. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) notes these drawbacks:
  • Side effects: CBD use could bring decreased alertness, irritability, agitation, diarrhea, and male reproductive toxicity.
  • Uncertainty: Proper dosing of CBD is challenging because of a lack of studies. It is difficult to know when too much is being taken.
  • Interactions: CBD could interact with prescription drugs and dietary supplements, as well as alcohol and illicit drugs.
  • Delayed treatment: Individuals self-medicating with CBD may avoid checking with their doctor about health issues. This could delay needed medical care and necessary treatment.
  • Unknown risks to the unborn: The impact of CBD use on a developing fetus is unknown. The FDA recommends against its use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Accommodation matters
Employees interested in using CBD for relief of medical issues should check with their doctor, who can consider how it will interact with other medications and discuss other issues specific to the individualís medical history.

Workers who are concerned that CBD use could impact their career can have a private discussion with their supervisor and human resources. They can talk about side effects and drug testing concerns and how this relates to the individualís job duties. This discussion is part of the accommodation process under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Each situation is different, and the outcome will depend on how CBD use affects their work and whether an accommodation is possible. If CBD use canít be accommodated, the employee can check with their doctor to see whether there is another effective treatment for their condition.

Getting the word out
To make workers aware of the risks involved with CBD use, bring up the topic. Information about CBD can be communicated:
  • Via an article on your company intranet,
  • In an email to workers,
  • During a discussion at team meetings,
  • Through your wellness program communications.
Although CBD is popularly used for treating a variety of medical issues, your employees should be aware that it could bring a positive drug test or carry health dangers.
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