The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a notice on Tuesday clarifying that workers in safety-sensitive positions under its regulations will not be tested for CBD. However, it urged caution in using products containing the cannabis compound because they can trigger positive drug tests for marijuana.
DOT requires drug testing for a class of workers that includes pilots, truck and school bus drivers, train engineers, transit vehicle operators and aircraft maintenance personnel. While marijuana use remains prohibited, the department acknowledged that the federal legalization of hemp means that cannabidiol derived from the crop is no longer a controlled substance.
The federal agency laid out three main points about the new policy:
1. DOT “requires testing for marijuana and not CBD.”
2. Workers should remain wary of using CBD products because they are not currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and “labeling of many CBD products may be misleading because the products could contain higher levels of THC than what the product label states.” THC is the main intoxicating compound in marijuana, and drug tests commonly look for its metabolites.
3. The department said “CBD use is not a legitimate medical explanation for a laboratory-confirmed marijuana positive result.” So, if an employee using CBD that contains excess THC tests positive, it can not be defended as a medical use.
“It remains unacceptable for any safety-sensitive employee subject to the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana,” the notice states. “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.”
DOT clarified that this notice does “not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way.” Rather, it is “intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.”
“Conformity with this policy and compliance notice is voluntary only and nonconformity will not affect rights and obligations under existing statutes and regulations,” the notice concludes. “Safety-sensitive employees must continue to comply with the underlying regulatory requirements for drug testing.”
While DOT’s policy seems to afford workers some leniency when it comes to CBD, military branches have widely discouraged or outright banned the use of the non-intoxicating compound in recent months.
Last month, the Department of Defense made clear that CBD is off limits for service members.
The Navy told its ranks that they’re barred from using CBD regardless of its legal status.
And the Coast Guard said last year that sailors can’t use marijuana or visit state-legal dispensaries.
Meanwhile, NASA said that CBD products could contain unauthorized THC concentrations that could jeopardize jobs if employees fail a drug test.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued guidance to federal agency drug program coordinators last year, expressing concern about excess THC in CBD products, which seems to have prompted the various departments to clarify their rules.
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