Can using CBD products cost someone their job? Here's what you need to know

Posted at 3:00 PM, Jun 09, 2019

PHOENIX — It's a hot product that's all the buzz right now, and it's helped bring relief to tens of thousands of people who suffer from chronic pain and anxiety, but some people say using a full spectrum form of CBD oil cost them their jobs.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a product that comes from the cannabis plant. Hemp-derived CBD with trace amounts of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, has been given the green light for use by the federal government. These products must contain less than 0.3 percent THC — the substance that gives the so-called "high" associated with marijuana.

"I tested positive for THC, and I ended up being put on administrative leave," said Tammy Allen, who ended up eventually losing her job due to her company's policy of no drug use.

Allen said she was taking CBD after suffering from seizures and migraines. She was told the product she was using had no THC in it; she even had lab toxicology reports from the company to prove it. So she was completely caught off guard after a drug test revealed positive results for THC.

Allen said she had taken a dose of CBD two days before the drug test.

"It looked as if I had just smoked pot, as if I had just done pot like within a couple of days of being tested," Allen said.

She had the product tested on her own and found the lab results to be very different from what the company had given to her.

Allen said it was an online CBD company and declined to disclose the name of the business.

Another Phoenix mother, who requested anonymity, told KNXV she also tested positive for THC and almost lost her job. Thankfully, her company let her stay after performing further tests.

The woman said she had deviated from the product she normally used and got a bottle of full spectrum oil from an Arizona smoke shop. She was also told the product didn't contain THC.

Chris Martin, the owner of Hempful Farms in Phoenix, specializes in CBD products.

"I am going to tell you right now, any full spectrum product that has all of the cannabinoids in it, you're going to run that risk," Martin said.

He added that his clients included police officers, transportation workers and airline pilots, and he had warned all of them about the risks of taking a "full spectrum oil" when they came in to buy products.

In eight years of running his company, Martin said he had only heard from two customers who told him they had failed a work drug test.

"I had warned them they ran that risk, but they chose to take it anyway," Martin said.

A full spectrum CBD oil is one that includes all of the active compounds in the raw hemp, or cannabis plant. Even with oil that contains less than the federally allowed limit of 0.3 percent THC, Martin said users ran the risk of testing positive.

"Any cannabinoid that you're taking over a period of time can cause a build up. If you're taking a cannabinoid test, I would avoid putting cannabinoids in my body — even one that says no THC because CBD is CBD. It could convert it if you heated it, it could convert in your stomach. So why run the risk if you're going to take a drug test? Don't put things in your body that could cause you to fail," Martin said.

Staff working at drug treatment centers said they often heard from addicts in recovery who wanted to take CBD products, saying it helped them handle withdrawal symptoms.

Chris Riley, a compliance officer at the Crossroads Substance Abuse Treatment Center, said he always warned his staff and clients to err on the cautious side.

"Without having any studies, having any research, we really don't know what the long-term or short-term effects will be," Riley said.

Across town at A Better Today Recovery Services, clinical manager Eboni Fields fielded the same question from her clients. Her advice?

"Everything needs to go through the doctor when it comes to any type of medication. Also, know who the provider is, where (you're) getting the CBD from," she said.

Martin advised those who were using CBD to research the companies they were purchasing the products from closely. They should be able to provide you with toxicology results. Ask them questions. If you sense any hesitation, you may want to consider another company, said Martin. He added that a good company would care about a customer's well-being more than a quick sale.

"It does me no good if you don't come back because you failed a drug test, or lost your job, or the product doesn't work. That does our company no good at all," Martin said.

KNXV asked Martin if stories like the one you are reading could hurt his business.

"No, I want these stories to come out. How many people are out there making this product in the backseat of their car and not testing it?" Martin said.

He advised those worried about losing their jobs to consider taking a CBD isolate or distillate product, in which most of the other substances except for the CBD are removed.

Unfortunately for Allen, despite the relief her CBD oil gave her, she is no longer using the product as she fears to lose a job again.

"To test positive for something you know you didn't do, and to try to convince everybody you didn't do it, that's a horrible feeling," she said.

It is also a good idea to talk to your company's human resources department or supervisors about using CBD on the job. Some workplaces may allow it; others may have a stricter policy. The woman who chose to stay anonymous said her company is allowing her to remain on the job. She has now switched to a CBD isolate product, instead of taking the full spectrum oil.