CBD has exploded on the market, with people using it for relaxation, pain relief — even better sleep. But though it is legal to use, the News4 I-Team found it… Can Federal Employees Use THC or CBD in Legal States? Encouraging news from the front, my dearest! As of this writing, all but 14 states have surrendered their discriminatory cannabis prohibition
Warning to Federal Employees and Those With Security Clearance: CBD Use Puts Jobs in Jeopardy
CBD has exploded on the market, with people using it for relaxation, pain relief — even better sleep. But though it is legal to use, the News4 I-Team found it could still cost you your job.
“I didn’t worry about it a bit — never gave it a second thought,” said one former federal law enforcement officer who purchased CBD oil over the counter to treat severe back pain.
He said the store clerk told him the product contained no THC and was perfectly safe. He placed the liquid CBD under his tongue as instructed. Three days later, he was randomly selected for a drug test at work.
“And then boom, I was told that I had tested positive for THC,” he said. “It’s horrible. It’s a horrible feeling.”
THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana, which is prohibited for use by all federal employees. CBD also comes from the cannabis plant but is a different cannabinoid that does not make users high. Federal law allows hemp-derived CBD to contain trace amounts of THC.
“I’m like, ‘It wasn’t marijuana, guys.’ But I’m caught between a rock and hard place,” he said. “They can’t prove that I smoked marijuana, and I can’t prove that I didn’t.”
He asked the I-Team to conceal his identity, fearing that speaking publicly could jeopardize his retirement benefits. He chose to retire earlier this year after his boss revoked his security clearance and suspended him indefinitely.
“It just makes you feel like you’re a bad person, you wasted your career,” said the agent, who had worked in law enforcement for nearly three decades.
“It is an eye opener for a lot of people,” said Don Mihalek, executive director of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.
Dozens of his members around the country have found themselves in similar situations, Mihalek said.
“It’s a new thing that’s out there, and I don’t think a lot of agencies have really gotten to the point of addressing how they’re going to handle that,” Mihalek said.
Neither has the drug testing industry, said Dr. Michael Kosnett, a medical toxicologist at the University of Colorado.
“The issue right now is the panel of testing,” he said. “Even with the sophisticated confirmatory testing, it doesn’t look for the metabolite of CBD. It only looks for the metabolite of THC.”
The testing industry likely will evolve over time to better deal with the rise in use of CBD, Kosnett said. Employers have no way to tell whether the THC in someone’s body originated from CBD or marijuana.
“It may not at all be enough to cause the person to feel high or intoxicated but it’s enough to have the metabolite of THC appear in their urine,” Kosnett said.
Plus, the CBD industry is largely unregulated, so users have no way to know what’s really in the products they’re buying. One study found nearly 70 percent were inconsistent with their labeling, including some with hidden THC, which can accumulate in your body over time.
“Unless a person really knows and has confidence in the purity of that particular brand they have, they could have an unfortunate surprise on a urine drug test,” Kosnett said.
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This summer, the federal division that oversees drug testing for federal employees sent a memo directing agencies “to inform applicants and employees of the risk that using such products may result in a positive marijuana test.” The memo reminded employers “there is no legitimate medical explanation for a marijuana-positive test result other than a verified prescription” for a few FDA-approved drugs.
The Department of Defense has specifically prohibited CBD use — even though Congress passed a law approving it for everyone else.
“It’s not fair. It’s completely unfair,” said Nina French, managing partner of Current Consulting Group, a firm that specializes in all areas of substance abuse testing.
Public and private employers are frustrated and unsure of how to adapt, French said.
“The problem is the times have changed before the tests have. And so now everybody’s going to be caught in the middle until technology and law catches up,” French said.
Employers use drug tests to limit liability and lower insurance costs for workplace accidents, French said. There are roughly 40 million lab-based drug tests in the U.S. each year.
“I can honestly not think of anything in our history that we have managed to botch to this degree,” French said.
The federal agent said he has never used illegal drugs but has no way to prove that. He could have spent years and drained his savings fighting to save his job but decided to retire instead.
“If it were me and this was a person who came into my office, I would look into challenging it,” said Suzanne Summerlin, general counsel for the National Federation of Federal Employees.
Summerlin thinks CBD users could argue there was no intent to break the rules. She worries the federal policy could keep agencies from hiring good candidates or cause them to lose good employees who were just misinformed.
“Certainly, moving forward, we are going to be letting folks know that these situations are happening,” Summerlin told the I-Team.
Both unions say if your job is one that drug tests randomly — after an accident, for security clearance or any other reason — it’s best to avoid CBD products all together.
“Our advice is if you’re going to do anything medicinal, make sure you get a doctor’s prescription,” Mihalek said.
The federal law enforcement officer told the I-Team he contacted his agency’s director in Washington but was told there was nothing he could do.
“If I had known I was going to test positive for this stuff, I would’ve never taken it,” he said. “I mean, look what I’ve had to go through.”
Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Katie Leslie, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.
Can Federal Employees Use THC or CBD in Legal States?
Encouraging news from the front, my dearest! As of this writing, all but 14 states have surrendered their discriminatory cannabis prohibition laws to some degree, either medicinally or recreationally. Hope.
Encouraging news from the front, my dearest! As of this writing, all but 14 states have surrendered their discriminatory cannabis prohibition laws to some degree, either medicinally or recreationally. Hope leaps in my breast that the Drug War may soon be ended and I shall return to your ample bosom again, to while away our days with sarsaparillas on the porch and playing grabass amongst the crabapples. Alas, the federal government has been stubborn as a left-footed arse about removing delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from its list of Schedule 1 substances. So what about federal government employees? Are they at liberty to partake in states where marijuana consumption is legal? The short answer is NO. Sorry, Charlie! But read the long answer anyway.
They blocked the hentai, too. I’m so sorry, Chuck.
What SAMHSA Says, Goes
The key player here is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the US Dept of Health & Human Services. According to themselves, SAMHSA leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation and works to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities. In practice, they set the scientific and technical standards for drug testing in the federal government and regulated industries, the Mandatory Guidelines for Workplace Drug Testing. So they accomplish their goals by checks notes making sure nobody like that gets a job? Right then, jolly good, Orwell and all that jazz, carry on.
So what’s the mood like at SAMHSA these days? Well, their top executive has yet to be replaced officially by the Biden administration. Tom Correre is still Acting Assistant Secretary after Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz jumped off the Trump-wreck on January 7th, citing the former president’s incitement of the Capitol riots. We are left to glean any further insight from the former leadership’s actions. The agency’s Know the Risks of Marijuana page was last updated in Dec ’20 and remains a prominent link on their site.
We also know that the Director of Division Workplace Programs there issued a memo days after the 2020 election, when several states expanded their legal marijuana legislation. In it, he advises federal drug program coordinators, medical review officers, and federal partner that no changes have been made to their Mandatory Guidelines. SAMHSA might even double down, cuz word is the feds might switch to hair follicle testing, which can produce a positive THC result for approximately 90 days post-consumption. Apparently they’d rather have you out huffing paint or smoking Spice in your time off, since they only test for cannabis, ecstasy, PCP, coke, heroin, and a couple other opioids (Vicodin and Oxycontin).
Testing Designated Positions
Even after you pass your pre-employment screening, every federal workers is subject to drug testing if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the employee is using drugs or they have an accident on the job. Well, we all make mistakes. Personally, I won’t even consider an aide for my basement surgical theater if they refuse the ether rag during the interview. Accidents with my “patients” are..bound. to happen.
But the feds also have a policy of Testing Designated Positions (TDP) which requires them to conduct random drug testing on at least 50 percent of their workers annually. But you probably know about this already if you’re subject to it, cuz they let you know in the job description that you’d be subject to randomized testing. SAMHSA issued the last update to these guidelines in 2010. Included are agency heads, political appointees, law enforcement, railroad and aviation personnel, employees with Top Secret security clearance & higher, along with some positions that are at the discretion of their individual agencies- healthcare professionals & drug rehab workers, firefighters, pharmacists, and so on. It’s all a bit overkill. Speaking of- looks like we have a runner, Nurse! Be a dear and grab the net, won’t you? Flicks syringe I do so hope this one’s got some cleverness.
What about CBD?
Cannabidol is federally legal since the 2018 Farm Bill (heralded by Mitch frikkin McConnell of all people). So federal employees can use CBD with no problem, right? Not so fast, Flash! Despite the legality of these products, they contain trace amounts of THC. The standard under federal law states that hemp derived product should contain less than 0.3 percent THC, but the products are poorly regulated and even products with the legal amount can still cause a positive test result if taken in sufficient quantity. NBC news, for instance, reported in 2019 about a DHS agent in north Texas who lost his job by using CBD oil for pain. Many agencies have since issued official statements warning employees about the use of legal, hemp-derived products.
The problem, aside from the tangled state of federal legalization, is that currently available testing methods can only establish the presence of THC. Since weed can stay in the body for weeks after use, there’s no way to tell if they got there from CBD products or THC, while in a legal state or not, on or off duty. The flipside is that if such technology was produced, it’d be turned on private citizens by law enforcement, so what exactly are we arguing for here? I dunno, Buster, I guess the real world is complicated. C’mon, let’s go get some Hardees.