is cbd oil alloeed for federal employees

OPM cautions feds on marijuana use

Past marijuana use is not disqualifying for applicants to federal jobs, but ongoing use in jurisdictions where pot has been legalized or decriminalized is still off limits, OPM states.

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Protesters rally in support of marijuana legalization in front of the White House in April, 2016. (Image credit: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com)

The Democratic Party platform in 2020 called for the decriminalization of marijuana use, but that doesn’t mean the Biden administration is welcoming recreational use among federal employees – even where the substance is legal.

The use of marijuana and cannabis-derived products for medical purposes has a legal basis in all but three states; 15 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws decriminalizing or legalizing the recreational use of pot. Virginia is on the cusp of conferencing marijuana bills passed in the state’s House and Senate in the closing days of the legislative session.

If Virginia’s law passes, then in the National Capital Region alone there will be more than 415,000 federal jobs located in jurisdictions where recreational pot use is permitted. California, where recreational use is permitted, is home to more than 148,000 federal jobs.

Past marijuana use is not necessarily a barrier to federal employment, according to a Feb. 25 memo from Kathleen McGettigan, the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, but current or ongoing use is another matter.

“Heads of agencies are expected to continue advising their workforce that legislative changes by some states and the District of Columbia do not alter federal law or executive branch policies regarding a drug-free workplace,” McGettigan wrote. “An individual’s disregard of federal law pertaining to marijuana while employed by the federal government remains relevant and may lead to disciplinary action.”

The report cautions in a footnote that even use of cannabis-based products that have low concentrations of THC could lead to positive drug test results. The Food and Drug Administration “does not certify the level of THC in these products and the percent of THC cannot be guaranteed,” the report states.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law and classified as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin, LSD and methamphetamine. A Reagan-era executive order mandating a Drug-Free Federal Workplace stated that feds “are required to refrain from the use of illegal drugs,” that the “use of illegal drugs by federal employees, whether on or off duty, is contrary to the efficiency of the service” and that “persons who use illegal drugs are not suitable for federal employment.”

That order is still in place, the OPM memo notes.

For applicants to federal jobs with a history of marijuana use, there is more leeway – as long as that use is in the past.

McGettigan advised agencies to consider the sensitivity of the job in question, the extent and circumstances surrounding marijuana use, the age of the person in question at the time of the use and how recently it occurred.

“Past marijuana use, including recently discontinued marijuana use, should be viewed differently from ongoing marijuana use,” the memo states. The memo also advises agencies to consider “the absence or presence of rehabilitation or efforts toward rehabilitation” when making a decision to hire an individual with a history of marijuana use.

Feds aren’t exactly being singled out. A Congressional Research Service report on federal drug laws released earlier this month notes that “people who use marijuana, even for medical purposes, generally enjoy little or no legal protection from adverse employment consequences.”

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His Back Hurt So He Tried CBD — It Cost Him His Job

Even though CBD is legal in many places, union says many federal employees are facing discipline for using the product

By Scott Friedman and Jack Douglas Jr. • Published September 23, 2019 • Updated on September 23, 2019 at 10:55 pm

A former federal agent in North Texas now regrets taking CBD oil, just a dropper full, because he said it wrecked his career in law enforcement. And he’s not the only federal worker who has gotten into trouble after taking CBD, even though it’s now legal.

A union that represents thousands of federal law enforcement agents says others among their ranks are now facing discipline on the job. And drug-testing experts say non-government employees can also get into a jam at work, even if the CBD oil they take is legal.

“You know, I served the public. I served my country. And it’s a sick feeling,” the now-out-of-work federal agent said about the end of his 28-year service, much of it working undercover for the Department of Homeland Security.

Because of what he did previously, protecting the public, he did not want his name revealed, or his face shown on camera.

The end came, the former agent said, after he tried a small amount of CBD in March in hopes of easing a job-related back pain.

Days later, he failed a random drug test that came back positive for marijuana.

The former agent said he is certain the test results were skewed by his deciding, for the first time, to try to rid the pain in his back by taking CBD.

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Texas recently legalized the product, as long as it contains very little THC, the ingredient that, in greater quantities, produces a high in marijuana.

But while the law changed, conventional drug testing did not, with those tests being able to detect the presence of THC in a person, but not the amount.

Another problem for the former agent was that, while the federal government and a string of states have legalized CBD, federal employment rules still prohibit any use of THC, no matter how diluted in a bottle of CBD.

“I explained to the medical director that I’ve never used drugs in my life … never tried marijuana. And he said, ‘Well, I can’t use that as an excuse,'” the former agent said.

That no-tolerance warning also came in a recent federal government notice to managers saying that unless employees have a doctor’s prescription for two particular prescription drugs, “there is no legitimate medical explanation for a marijuana positive test result …”

After he was put on administrative leave, and his security clearance revoked, the agent moved quick to retire, because he feared he was about to get fired.

“It’s a horrible feeling. You feel like you’re a nobody. You feel like nobody will listen to you,” he said.

He’s not alone, said Don Mihalek, legislative director for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Mihalek said there is “more than a couple of dozen” federal law enforcement employees who are in trouble at work because they used CBD.

While CBD may be legal in a court of law, its use can still be a problem for people in the work place, because conventional testing can’t differentiate between it and marijuana, which is still illegal in Texas.

That void in proving what’s legal and what’s not should have been given more consideration as lawmakers moved toward legalizing CBD, said Nina French, a drug testing consultant.

“I can honestly not think of anything in our history that we have managed to botch to this degree,” French said.

Doctors warn that regulation of the industry has also not kept up with the CBD craze.

One study found that more than 60 percent of CBD products were mislabeled, with some containing higher amounts of THC than advertised.

“And so unless a person really knows and has confidence in the purity of a particular brand that they have, they could have an unfortunate surprise on a urine drug test,” said Dr. Michael Kosnett, a drug testing expert at the University of Colorado.

The former agent said the CBD he took was labeled THC-free. But a more detailed lab report, found by scanning the bar code on the bottle, showed it, instead, contained a trace amount of THC – below the legal limit, but still enough to show up in a urine test, according to experts.

And enough to end a career.

“If I had known I was going to test positive for this stuff, I would have never taken it,” the former agent said, adding: “I mean, look what I’ve had to go through.”

The Feds Are Coming For Delta-8 THC

August Battles was barely out of high school when he and a friend decided to capitalize on the 2018 Farm Bill—in which Congress and President Donald Trump legalized an American hemp industry—and started selling “CBD cigarettes,” smokes containing the low-THC, high(er) CBD cultivar of cannabis sativa that’s legal under federal law.

Packs of their Vance Global “guilt-free smokes” now appear in 12,000 stores across the country, they claim. But the market is fickle and consumer tastes shift quickly. So after the CBD boom fizzled into a bust, Battles pivoted to Delta-8 THC, the hemp-derived cannabinoid that’s nearly identical to the “real” THC in marijuana banned under federal law.

Delta-8 THC absolutely gets you high, but since the source product is hemp, Delta-8 products remain federally legal—and can be found in smoke shops, novelty stores, bodegas, gas stations and online all over the United States.

But maybe not for much longer.

As health agencies indicated on Tuesday, the federal government is finally taking notice of this glaring loophole in federal drug law. And hemp industry players believe action may soon follow.

COMMERCE CITY CO – JANUARY 31: Members of the Drug Enforcement Administration raided two homes . [+] side-by-side, in an assumed illegal marijuana operation, on January 31, 2019 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Denver Post via Getty Images

On Tuesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration published warnings advising the public of “serious health risks” posed by Delta-8 THC products.

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According to the FDA, between December 2020 and July 2021, poison-control centers received 660 calls from people who consumed Delta-8 THC—many unintentionally, almost all of them children, dozens of whom were hospitalized with very familiar-sounding symptoms: lethargy, slurred speech, erratic heart rates, sedation, and even “coma.”

The warnings echo advisories issued over the past decade about “regular” adult-use cannabis products containing THC—triggered by people, sometimes children but frequently adults, who overconsumed.

Battles suspects a similar phenomenon is at play. “Those people in the hospital, they were there because they were too high, more than likely,” he said.

One big difference is that unlike tightly regulated adult-use cannabis, Delta-8 THC is wholly unregulated. And, as the FDA pointed out, there are no requirements around labeling or product quality or safety.

The same was true with products containing CBD. And the FDA also cracked down on CBD products, but for mislabeling products or making claims about health benefits unsupported by research.

After a brief boom, the FDA cracked down on CBD products marketed for pets. (Photo by Smith . [+] Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

The other major difference—and the one that spells trouble for the Delta-8 THC industry—is that unlike CBD, Delta-8 products get you wrecked.

Last month, Vance Global released a line of Delta-8 THC gummies that are “as highly potent as possible,” said Battles, who wanted to avoid the predictable complaints from unsatisfied (and un-stoned) customers who weren’t getting their money’s worth.

“Half a gummy will put you on your ass,” he promised. And so when the CDC and FDA indicated they were watching, Battles “definitely wasn’t surprised.”

UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 5: Hemp grows at Murray State Universitys hemp field in Murray, Ky., on . [+] Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

So far, none of the Delta-8 vendors or distributors contacted for this article reported any changes in vendor, distributor, or customer attitudes as a result of the FDA/CDC warnings. But they did interpret the federal agencies’ warning as a clear sign.

“It’s kind of that first blow against the industry,” Battles said. “They kind of did the same thing with CBD.”

It would not be the first. To date, 16 states have banned or restricted sales of Delta-8 products, including cannabis-friendly states like Colorado, Michigan, and Nevada. Bans in those states is motivated in part by complaints from the adult-use cannabis industry, which rightly views Delta-8 THC products as an existential threat.

But the federal government may also take action. For years, the FDA has been mulling standards and regulations for CBD products. Since Delta-8 has intoxicating, psychoactive properties, the FDA may move more swiftly. The other compounding factor is that since Delta-8 THC products first appeared about two years ago, the market is flooded with companies offering the product—often without age restrictions.

“The FDA is reacting like it does every time,” said Lo Friesen, the founder and CEO of HeyLo Cannabis, a licensed, adult-use cannabis company headquartered in Washington. “But this one is heightened in scope because it’s everywhere.”

Some Delta-8 THC purveyors would welcome regulation. Chase Slappey is the co-founder of Atlanta-based ATLRx, which markets and sells Delta-8 THC and CBD products online and in brick-and-mortar locations throughout Georgia.

Unlike products that may appear in truck stops and seedier locations—such as the very products the CDC and FDA warned about on Tuesday—ATLRx products are lab tested and have unique QR codes that provide “full panel” lab results, he said.

“If you eat too much, you’ll freak out, especially if you don’t have a tolerance. That’s just naturally going to happen,” he said. “But there are a lot of bad actors out there who are not properly manufacturing Delta-8 themselves.”

For now, the Delta-8 market is unaffected. If anything, the FDA may have unintentionally heightened awareness and interest.

But when a crackdown comes, Friesen believes the FDA will start with cease-and-desist orders aimed at a select few Delta-8 companies, starting with the biggest or the most unscrupulous—a near-repeat of how the FDA cracked down on the CBD industry.

“We’re going to see the same cycle with Delta-8 products,” she predicted. That may lead to an amendment to the Farm Bill that clarifies which hemp derivatives are legal, which aren’t, and which require regulation.

Looming over all of this, of course, is federal cannabis legalization. If the Delta-9 THC in marijuana was legal, demand for Delta-8 THC—a synthetic product, created to fulfill the market inefficiency posed by drug prohibition—would evaporate. If federal marijuana legalization happens, Delta-8 will be a nonfactor.

But if the federal government adds Delta-8 to the Controlled Substances Act, the whole drama will play out yet again, a few years or months down the road, with yet another cannabis product not captured under the law.