Laws on marijuana are becoming increasingly complex. What was once an illegal and criminalized drug everywhere in the United States is now the center of a debate that touches everything from the War on Drugs to medical treatments. In ten states and the District of Columbia, marijuana is fully legal, including for recreational use. In many other states, it is either decriminalized or legal for medical usage. Only ten states still have laws that designate marijuana fully illegal to possess or use. Complicating matters is the fact that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.
For employers that use pre-employment drug screening or ongoing monitoring for employee drug use, the complex matrix of marijuana laws raises big questions about best practices and protocols. Things become even more confusing when substances such as cannabidiol (CBD) enter the equation.
CBD derives from the same cannabis plant as marijuana. It does not have the same psychoactive effects as THC, and the substance has been legalized by the federal government. Studies show that CBD can be helpful in the treatment of epilepsy, and CBD oil has become popular as a means of relieving chronic pain and inflammation, especially for individuals with arthritis.
Despite the fact that CBD oil and other CBD products cannot get someone high in the way that marijuana can, the substance does pose challenges for drug screening. For instance, NASA has informed astronauts and other employees that they should not use CBD unless they are prepared for the consequences of failing a drug test. While marijuana drug tests are specifically looking for THC—and while THC is theoretically not present in CBD—NASA has concluded that since there are “no standards governing the manufacturing” of CBD products, those products could still contain trace amounts of THC. The space agency went on to state that “any compounds or substances not approved by the FDA cannot be used as a legitimate medical explanation for a positive drug test result.”
NASA is not the only government agency that has banned the use of CBD and other substances derived from cannabis. The Navy prohibits its members from using any products derived from marijuana or hemp. Navy sailors who fail drug tests due to CBD may be assigned “Other Than Honorable” discharges.
Employees and job candidates should use their best judgment when it comes to using (or not using) CBD, marijuana, and any other cannabis-derived substances. Some employers—such as NASA, the Navy, and the Coast Guard—have expressly directed their personnel away from CBD use. Others may not have formal policies on CBD but may conduct pre-hire drug tests or ongoing monitoring for employee drug use that could be triggered by CBD use. Despite its federal legality, CBD could lose you a job opportunity or get you fired.