DOT & ELD Guidance Blog

CBD Oils and the CMV Driver

Learn more about the DOT's recent stance on driver use of CBD products.
J.J. Keller Editor Kathy Close

Kathy Close - DOT Editor, J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

March 27 , 2020

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).

DOT Stance on CBD Products

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 vs. Marijuana

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?

  • Hemp was bred for its fiber (used in clothing and construction), oils, and nutritional benefits. This genetic variation of cannabis sativa produces more CBD than THC and is characterized as having only trace amounts of THC (0.3 percent).
  • Marijuana was bred for the production of THC through its resinous glands (trichomes) in the plant’s flowers and leaves. The strain produces between 5 and 30 percent THC on average.

Will a Driver Test Positive for THC When Using CBD Oil?

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.

What Can Motor Carriers Do About Drivers Who Use CBD Oil?

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:

  • There is no guarantee of a negative drug test since trace THC may show up in a DOT urine specimen.
  • MROs will not accept CBD oil as a valid medical explanation for a positive test for THC.
  • Enforcement may view CBD oil in a commercial motor vehicle as possession since the officer is unable to determine the concentration of THC.
  • Labels may be misleading because FDA is not monitoring THC levels in CBD products.

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, download the Alcohol & Drug Compliance Brief.

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