But the I-Team uncovered a CBD surprise. Some people who have been using CBD products in various forms have flunked drug screens for marijuana.
It happened recently to Rose Maexy of Indianapolis, Indiana. She said horrible nerve pain in her lower back was relieved when she started taking CBD pills, but when she took a drug test for a temp job she failed.
“THC showed up in my urine,” Maxey said. “Mind me, I am 61 years old, never flunked a drug test. I don't do drugs. I don't even smoke cigarettes.”
Maxey said she had no idea even trace amounts of THC could be inside the pills she took, although the manufacturer does post a warning on its website.
CBD is short for cannibidiol, and is a chemical compound found in both cannabis plants: hemp and marijuana.
The CBD products currently sold over the counter should only come from hemp plants, which should have less than 0.3% THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical that causes mind altering effects.
THC is one of the substances considered inappropriate in the workplace and it's screened for on most drug tests.
But it's a fine line between therapy and a heap of trouble. If small amounts of THC are in product there's a chance your test can come up positive for marijuana.
University of Illinois at Chicago toxicology expert Frank Paloucek told the I-Team depending on what product you are taking and how much you are taking THC can build up in the body.
“If you aren't regulated and you don't manufacture under strict standards for testing, we are seeing that there are people coming out with a lot more marijuana THC in it than what people thought,” Paloucek said.
At Botanic Alternatives in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, owner Tom Fisher said they have heard there is a small amount of people having trouble with employment drug tests.
But he said the issue is with unprofessional manufacturers who have poor quality control standards and who are not careful with what cannabis they are choosing to use.
Fisher said at his store they do extensive vetting of their suppliers because there is no federal regulation.
“Not all CBD is equal,” he said.
“The products we carry have certificates of analysis or third-part label testing data to verify what exactly is in the product and whether it's safe to take or not,” said Jeff Trout, general manager of Botanic Alternatives.
Trendy CBD products are going mainstream and showing up now in fast food restaurants, home supply shops, and popular retail drug stores.
“There's a lot of confusion as to what's contained in what people are purchasing,” said Lori Ecker, an employment lawyer in Chicago.
Ecker said even those employees with exemplary records and a clear understanding of how a drug screen works can be tripped up. And she said most are too embarrassed and afraid to go public.
“It's shocking and to have,” Ecker said. “The specter of losing your job on the spot it's totally frightening.”
“The individual I spoke to did not believe there was any THC in the CBD oil that they purchased. And it wasn't until after they tested positive that they started doing more research,” she added.
Currently Ecker is unaware of any cases in Illinois where CBD hemp oil was the culprit, and the individual who tested positive on a drug screen was terminated and sued. But she expects these cases could be coming soon.
The I-Team was recently contacted by an Illinois school bus driver who said he was devastated to learn he flunked a required drug screen.
He didn't want to be identified but wanted others to know he lost his job, his family's health insurance and his retirement after using CDB products to ease arthritis pain. He told the I-Team he thought the products he was using were legal and safe.
The legality of CBD remains murky for a variety of reasons.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has oversight of CBD because it is the active ingredient in an approved prescription drug to treat two rare seizure disorders. The agency has said CBD can't be added to food or sold as a dietary supplement because officials haven't determined if it's safe or effective for other conditions.
But FDA commissioner Scott Gottieb recently told Congress enforcement is being limited to sellers who make false health claims.
“The City processes Business License applications in accordance with state law, which permits retail sale of CBD products as long as they are made from hemp which has less than 0.3% THC,” said Isaac Reichman, a spokesman with the City of Chicago's Business Affairs and Consumer Protection office. “As part of our typical licensing process, BACP asks licensees to disclose their business activity, which can include if they are selling CBD products.”
The FDA is planning a public hearing at the end of May to gather more information on the science, manufacturing and sale of cannabis compounds such as CBD.
Rose Maxey told the I-Team she plans to keep using her favorite CBD products because they do a wonderful job easing her pain.
She said she will probably cut back on her CBD intake if she ever has to take a drug screen in the future.
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