4 Things You Must Know About CBD and Drug Tests

Video Article Summary


More than half of U.S. employers impose drug testing on job candidates and employees, but as more states allow recreational and medicinal cannabis use, the legality of certain tests is getting increasingly complicated. To confuse matters even more, an increasing number of Americans are using cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabis compound that’s available nationwide. This raises the question: can companies drug-test for CBD?

People use CBD for a variety of reasons, including treating anxiety, insomnia, and even for beauty benefits. Preliminary research shows that the compound may also be useful for arthritis and epilepsy. With such promising effects, it’s no surprise that over 64 million Americans have already tried cannabidiol. But this popularity may come at a cost for employees subject to drug testing.

Is CBD Legal?

The first question is fairly obvious. If cannabidiol is legal, you should have nothing to worry about, right? Unfortunately, the legality remains somewhat ambiguous.

At the federal level, CBD is completely legal—as long as it’s derived from hemp and contains no more than .3% THC. This type of cannabidiol is regulated as industrial hemp and isn’t subject to the same restrictions as marijuana. This was clarified in the 2018 Farm Bill.

However, not every state is on board with the cannabidiol craze, and many have enacted their own prohibitions against the compound. For example, Idaho permits only CBD products that contain zero THC and were cultivated under specific conditions, meaning that most conventional cannabidiol products would be illegal under state law. Nebraska and South Dakota are two additional states with very limited access to CBD products.

In other words, the Farm Bill may not protect you if you live in a state that imposes its own restrictions. You’ll need to review the statutes in the state where you live to ensure that CBD use wouldn’t violate the law. The good news is that a majority of states are becoming CBD-friendly; even traditionally conservative states like Utah are becoming huge markets for cannabidiol products.

Does CBD Show Up on a Drug Test?

If your company subjects you to drug testing, you do need to exercise a bit of caution with cannabidiol. As previously noted, commercial hemp-based CBD products can contain up to .3% THC (the psychoactive compound that drug tests look for). With such trace amounts of THC, most users won’t fail a drug test. However, there have been a few documented cases where cannabidiol users tested positive for THC.

There are a few specific reasons why a CBD user might fail a drug test:

  • Everyone metabolizes THC differently; for a small minority, even trace amounts may appear on a drug test.
  • Cannabidiol products aren’t reviewed or regulated by the FDA, so certain products may not contain the concentrations that are advertised; it’s important to only purchase CBD products that are tested by a third-party lab and include a certificate of analysis confirming the ingredients and concentrations.
  • High doses can increase the presence of THC in the body; most users should not exceed 5mg to 20mg per day.

One way to avoid the THC problem altogether is to purchase products that don’t contain the compound. With a CBD tincture (the most common delivery method), there are three standard formulations that you can choose from:

  • Full Spectrum: Contains all the compounds of the cannabis plant, including CBD, other cannabinoids, terpenes, and trace amounts of THC.
  • Broad Spectrum: Contains all the compounds of the cannabis plant except THC. The THC is removed before the product goes to market.
  • CBD Isolates: A truly pure CBD oil, it contains only the active compound, cannabidiol, provided in a carrier liquid.

To pass a drug test with the greatest certainty, your best bet is to avoid full-spectrum CBD and stick with pure CBD isolates or broad-spectrum products.

Can an Employer Test You for CBD Specifically?

For most employees, this won’t become an issue. Cannabidiol is non-psychoactive, meaning that it doesn’t get you high. It doesn’t even have many known side effects except for occasional dry mouth and fatigue. In other words, most employers aren’t worried about cannabidiol, so they’re not likely to go through the trouble of having it analyzed.

However, assuming that an employer did want to test for CBD, it’s worth analyzing the legal implications given the federal government’s acceptance of the compound. To gain a better understanding, we spoke with Yvette Farnsworth Baker, Esq., a Florida attorney and legal consultant for Current Consulting Group, an organization that provides drug screening consulting. According to Farnsworth Baker, “There are very few laws that protect CBD use. In almost every state, there are no restrictions on an employer’s ability to prohibit CBD use by employees or to discipline employees for CBD use.”

Yvette notes that there are some possible exceptions to the rule, such as in the case of disability. She advises that “if an employee claims a disability and requests an accommodation for their CBD use as treatment for their disability, consult with an HR professional to ascertain whether state disability law(s) may require a disability accommodation.”

What if You Fail a Drug Test Due to CBD?

While it’s unlikely that a CBD user will fail a drug test designed to detect THC, the remote possibility does exist as previously outlined. The question then becomes: Do you have any legal recourse?

According to Farnsworth Baker, it depends largely on the company’s drug-testing policy. “The policy must comport with state law, and the employer must follow the policy that has been communicated to employees.”

In other words, even trace amounts of THC can put you in violation of a workplace drug policy if cannabis is expressly prohibited, though it may create a legal gray area if you appeal on the basis of cannabis vs. hemp. As noted by Farnsworth Baker, “The employer has no way to confirm that the THC positive was caused by the use of CBD or by the use of THC in another form and must apply their THC policy. “

The Bottom Line

If you’re subject to workplace drug testing, your safest bet remains cannabidiol with 0% THC. It’s highly unlikely that your workplace will subject you to CBD-specific testing, but if they do, they’ll need to disclose that information ahead of time as part of the company’s official drug policy.

Of course, if you have a disability that necessitates the use of cannabidiol or cannabis, make sure to research any protections that may be afforded to you by your state and communicate your needs to your employer accordingly.

The good news is that most employers aren’t concerned about cannabidiol. It doesn’t have psychoactive effects, and it doesn’t inhibit your ability to do your job. Except in the most unusual of circumstances, your CBD use should never become an issue.

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