Legal CBD Products May Make You Test Positive For Cannabis In Urine Drug Tests, Johns Hopkins Study Says
With legal cannabis and hemp hitting the mainstream hard, and expanding rapidly across the U.S. and the rest of the world, the availability of products containing CBD in considerable proportions is exploding.
And, while some studies have suggested drug testing at work is a thing of the past, this is not the case for all jobs. Some jobs, as well as criminal justice and addiction treatment proceedings, among others, still require drug testing.
How We Drug-Test For Cannabis
During a recent conversation, postdoctoral fellow Tory Spindle, Ph.D., a researcher in the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, explained how we drug-test for cannabis.
“There is a need to understand whether the use of CBD products (. ) can impact drug testing for cannabis given their growing availability and increased interest in CBD for therapeutic purposes.”
“Conventional urine drug testing for cannabis targets a common metabolite of THC called THCCOOH (THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis). Importantly, many CBD-dominant products contain low levels of THC, including hemp-derived CBD products which can legally contain up to 0.3% THC,” he said. “There is a need to understand whether the use of CBD products, with and without low levels of THC, can impact drug testing for cannabis given their growing availability and increased interest in CBD for therapeutic purposes.”
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And this is what Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers set out to do in recent months, publishing their findings at the Journal of Analytical Toxicology this week.
A team at Johns Hopkins Medicine conducted a study in which six individuals administered pure CBD, both orally and using a vaporizer, as well as inhaled vaporized CBD-dominant cannabis (containing 0.39% THC) on separate occasions.
After dosing, they provided urine samples to determine whether they would test positive for cannabis using common drug testing standards.
“The results showed that pure CBD did not produce a positive result on a standard urine drug test for cannabis. However, 2 of 6 participants tested positive for cannabis after they inhaled CBD-dominant cannabis vapor,” Spindle explained.
In his and his colleagues’ opinion, these results have important implications for consumers of CBD products.
“2 of 6 participants tested positive for cannabis after they inhaled CBD-dominant cannabis vapor.”
“The cannabis used in this study was very similar in THC composition to what is found in legal CBD/hemp products,” Spindle continued. “Individuals who are subject to urine drug testing in their place of employment or elsewhere should understand that even very small amounts of THC in a CBD/hemp product can trigger a positive result for cannabis and that conventional drug tests cannot distinguish whether THC present in someone’s system came from cannabis, or a federally-legal hemp product.
“These results are especially important for people who use hemp/CBD products daily, such as for therapeutic reasons, because THC can potentially build up in a person’s system with repeated use, which could further increase the chances of a positive result for cannabis.”
Finally, Spindle pointed out the findings of the Johns Hopkins study are highlight the issue of some poorly regulated CBD products being advertised as “THC free,” even though they were found to contain levels of THC similar to (or higher) than the THC levels present in the cannabis used in a study conducted by Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“THC can potentially build up in a person’s system with repeated use [of CBD products], which could further increase the chances of a positive result for cannabis.”
Vandrey and his collaborators at the University of Pennsylvania had published a JAMA study showing that that 21% of CBD/hemp products sold on the Internet contained THC, even though their labels didn’t properly disclose it.
“I have a hard time finding anyone who hasn’t used a CBD product at least once, but most are completely unaware of the possibility of THC exposure or a positive drug test as a result of using these newly legalized products,” Vandrey said in a release.
Clearing the smoke: Will using CBD cause you to fail the DOT drug/alcohol test?
With the legalization of marijuana, medical marijuana and/or CBD (Cannabidiol) in more than half of the states in the U.S., there’s been confusion among safety-sensitive employees like pilots, bus drivers, train engineers and truck drivers who are required to take the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Drug and Alcohol Test on what substances will fail a drug test.
Here’s the short answer: The U.S. DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation does not authorize the use of Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, for any reason. Any product, including “Cannabidiol” (CBD) products, with a concentration of more than 0.3% THC remains classified as marijuana, a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
It is important for all employers and safety-sensitive employees to know:
- The Department of Transportation requires testing for marijuana and not CBD.
- The labeling of many CBD products may be misleading because the products could contain higher levels of THC than what the product label states. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently certify the levels of THC in CBD products, so there is no Federal oversight to ensure that the labels are accurate. The FDA has cautioned the public that: “Consumers should beware purchasing and using any [CBD] products.” The FDA has stated: “It is currently illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement.” Also, the FDA has issued several warning letters to companies because their products contained more CBD than indicated on the product label.
- CBD use is not a legitimate medical explanation for a laboratory-confirmed marijuana positive result. Therefore, Medical Review Officers will verify a drug test confirmed at the appropriate cutoffs as positive, even if an employee claims they only used a CBD product.
It remains unacceptable for any safety-sensitive employee subject to the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana. Since the use of CBD products could lead to a positive drug test result, Department of Transportation-regulated safety-sensitive employees should exercise caution when considering whether to use CBD products.
For more information on Texas’ legalization of medical marijuana and CBD click here.
Texas MedClinic was established in 1982 by Dr. Bernard T. Swift, Jr., as a group medical practice that specializes in urgent care and occupational medicine. Texas MedClinic has grown to 19 locations in San Antonio, New Braunfels, Austin, and Round Rock. Texas MedClinic is staffed with 82 medical providers including physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners and over 450 employees.