Kathy Close - DOT Editor, J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.
March 27 , 2020
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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a compliance notice in February 2020 on products labeled as cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Due to the 2018 legalization of the production of hemp in American agriculture, many wondered whether hemp products, such as CDB oils, are permissible for commercial drivers.
The compliance notice applies to safety-sensitive positions in all modes of transportation, including highway, under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
According to the DOT, the use of CBD oil comes down to the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is strictly prohibited based on DOT testing rules (§40.85). In addition, the FMCSA prohibits the use of THC based on its medical qualification standards (§391.41) and general operating rules (§392.4).
In its compliance notice, the DOT warns of misleading CBD product labels. The products could contain higher levels of THC than what the 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 even cautioned consumers on using CBD products and issued several warning letters to companies because their products contained more THC than indicated.
Hemp and marijuana are strains of cannabis sativa. Both strains produce cannabidiols, with THC being the most well-known.
What’s the difference between the two strains?
There is no guarantee that CBD oil derived from hemp will result in a negative drug test result. The concentration of THC in the CBD oil and how much the individual is using the oil both factor into a potential drug testing violation.
If the oil was processed from a marijuana plant, THC is more likely to show up in a drug-testing panel based on the chemical composition of the plant. Since THC is an absolute in DOT testing, a medical review officer (MRO) cannot take the medicinal use of a CBD oil into consideration as he or she determines a drug test result.
Since CBD oil is becoming much more commonplace, drivers should be cautioned and trained on the risk of using CBD oil.
Points to cover during driver training may include:
Drivers should be especially wary of oils sold in states that allow for recreational and/or medical use of marijuana. The oil may have been processed from the marijuana plant, which may cause them to have higher concentrations of THC.
For more information on drug testing, read the compliance brief on drug and alcohol management and recordkeeping.
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