CBD Oil: Hemp-based Products Create Hazy Outlook for Employers

CBD is everywhere! From oils to chewables, people are using CBD (Cannabidiol) oil to treat a laundry list of medical conditions. Often referred to as THC’s ‘cannabinoid cousin’ CBD does not cause intoxication and science has yet to prove its medical effectiveness for most ailments. Even so, these popular new ‘miracle drugs’ are becoming a workplace issue.

Faced with a deluge of new users, employers are scurrying to figure out-

  1. What the heck CBD is?
  2. How to handle the use of CBD (which is derived from the industrial hemp plant) in the workplace?

Not an easy task, especially since President Trump’s signing of the 2019 Farm Bill. Under the Farm Bill industrial hemp was reclassified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as an “agricultural commodity”, which means it’s no longer considered a Scheduled I controlled substance.

Employer confusion is to be expected, according to Fox Rothchild’s ‘In The Weeds’ blog. Since “the reclassification of industrial hemp makes it legal on the federal level, but “most states still have not adopted regulations addressing industrial hemp activities, and therefore, engaging in these activities are still prohibited at the state level. The regulatory drafting and approval process at the state and county levels will require time.”

The first thing companies should do to manage the lack of clarity over CBD is to consult an employment attorney. Emerging state, local and federal regulations have turned the CBD circus into a multi-ring nightmare that will need a qualified ringmaster.

Below are six key factors every employer should look at as the hazy, daze of CBD law changes continues to smolder.

  1. Be aware that CBD oil can cause false positives on employee drug tests. Ask your drug test provider how they are handling this new substance and make sure their path matches company policy.
  2. Employees may begin presenting medical ‘prescriptions’ for CBD. So now is the time for a drug policy review and re-write to add necessary language about CBD.
  3. The only CBD drug that’s currently FDA approved is Epidiolex, and it is used to treat epilepsy.
  4. All other CBD products are considered illegal until they receive FDA approval.
  5. CBD products that are derived from marijuana with more than .3% THC are still unlawful. Only CBD derived from industrial hemp is now legal under federal law. Employees may not know the difference, but you should.
  6. A known side effect of CBD use is drowsiness, which raises safety issues for workers who operate machinery. Again, a drug policy update is essential and should include specific language pertaining to the company’s stance on CBD.

Still trying to navigate the medical and non-medical marijuana rules for workplace use? The report Marijuana in the Workplace: Employer Guidelines for Navigating the Legal Haze of Medical and Recreational Use will help you find your way and better understand laws and best practices for creating an effective and compliant policy.

By V.L. Brunskill

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