Can truck drivers use CBD? All you need to know about cannabis, hemp, testing and the clearinghouse
Across the country, more and more states are decriminalizing and outright legalizing marijuana, and meanwhile CBD, an extract of industrial hemp plants, a legal cousin to marijuana, has emerged as an effective treatment for everything from chronic pain to anxiety and sleep disorders.
But despite the warming national attitudes toward the hemp plant and all its potential derivatives, CDL holders should approach any form of the substance with extreme caution.
Overdrive revisited a column in our Trucking Law series, written by Dr. Alexander Underwood, in this video to go over what drivers need to know about CBD, THC, and keeping their CDLs – the landscape for hemp/cannabis-derived products has only gotten more chaotic, and murky in terms of legality, since that column originally aired.
A barrage of consumer products have swept through gas stations and truck stops across the country. Recently, savvy businesspeople have started selling so-called Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC, or concentrated THC derived from fully legal hemp plants.
These products exploit the federal loophole that deems industrial hemp byproducts legal but plants grown for THC illegal. While these products remain legal, for now, they too will cause a failed drug test as the Delta-8 and Delta-10 compounds produce the same metabolites as Delta-9, plain-old THC-bearing marijuana, the kind that’s federally illegal.
Amid the madness in the market for cannabis products and the ample confusion, an untold number of truckers have had their careers sidelined due to positive drug tests for THC.
From January 6, 2020 to June 1, 2021, 80,098 urine drug tests administered under the mandatory federal program for CDL drivers came back positive. More than half of those tests found marijuana.
The video tracks the legality of different products and states the official DOT position on CBD.
Above, find what you need to know about the intersection of marijuana, CBD, and trucking law. –Video Editor Andrew Guinn contributed to this report
Can Truck Drivers Use CBD? 4 Things to Know
Many truck drivers have been turning to products like CBD oils and lotions for relief from pains and aches that come from the job. There has been a growth in popularity of medicinal and recreational marijuana-related products, even though the legal waters are a bit murky. This can be especially concerning for truck drivers since they are used to thinking about drug screenings and the new Clearinghouse regulations. If that weren’t enough, many trucking carriers may prohibit the use of such products. In a recent poll by Drive My Way, all drivers indicated their carriers don’t allow them to use CBD products. So, you’ve probably been wondering “can truck drivers use CBD?” The answer isn’t so simple, so we’ll break it down for you.
Here are 4 things you need to know about CBD and trucking.
1. CBD products aren’t regulated by the FDA yet
CBD (short for cannabidiol) is a compound found in cannabis plants like hemp and marijuana. There are over 113 such compounds in the cannabis plant, known as cannabinoids. The most well-known cannabinoids are CBD and THC (short for tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the psychoactive agent in marijuana that is responsible for producing the sense of euphoria or the high. It is also measured in drug tests and leads to a positive result if detected.
CBD itself is a non-psychoactive compound—it won’t make you feel high, anxious, or bring redness to your eyes.
CBD is being researched and used for a variety of different medical purposes, and is said to help relieve anxiety, muscle and joint pain, depression, migraines, and other ailments common to truck drivers. Despite these claims of health benefits, CBD products haven’t been regulated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is no consensus in the medical or regulatory community about the effects of CBD on the body. Science and the law haven’t made up their minds about it yet. So, it remains a grey area—it may help you relieve pain, or it may not, but it definitely won’t get you high.
2. CBD may cause individuals to test positive on a drug screening
There are many CBD derived products that are available for use on the market. For example, CBD oil is made by extracting the compound from either hemp or marijuana plants. These products of course contain CBD, but also many other ingredients, including trace amounts of THC. Remember that’s the one that gets you high. Most states require that commercial CBD derived products contain less than 0.3% THC. That’s such a small amount that it’s not going to have any psychoactive effect on your body or get you high. But even these traces could be detected on a drug test!
Some CBD products claim to be “THC-free”, but it’s not clear whether this is the case. People purchasing CDB products cannot be sure the claims of ‘THC-free’ are indeed valid and that they will not test positive on drug tests.
In fact, many CBD products companies will state disclaimers like “We cannot make any claims on whether or not any of our products will show up on a drug test. We are not legally able to make any recommendations or guarantees regarding drug tests on THC free or Full Spectrum products.”
This just goes to show that even though you hear a brand has “zero THC”, there will always be trace amounts that can be detected. In general, CBD lotions tend to have less THC than oils, but even these cannot guarantee the complete absence of THC.
3. State laws differ on CBD products
It’s important to remember that marijuana use is still illegal in most of the country. State laws differ on these matters. As previously indicated, most states require that commercial CBD derived products contain less than 0.3% THC. In a few other states like Nebraska, South Dakota, and Idaho, the use of marijuana in all forms is illegal.
At the federal level, all kinds of marijuana products are still illegal. This means if you are drug tested using the Federal drug testing panel and use marijuana, it will be reported out as a positive drug test.
The recent Clearinghouse regulations mean that this test result data will be available to other employers in the trucking industry. This makes CBD product use very risky for truck drivers. Aside from the laws, drivers have to consider whether their carriers will allow the use of CBD products. Our own poll of drivers shows that all of them said their carriers prohibit CBD product use!
4. Bottom line for truck drivers
So, what’s the bottom line for people wondering “can truck drivers use CBD?” Using CBD products can be dangerous to a truck driver’s career. If a positive result shows up on a drug test, this can stay on your record for good.
Worse yet, the drug tests cannot differentiate THC that came from CBD products and THC that came from ingesting marijuana.
Since manufacturers can’t guarantee a THC-free product, and since these products aren’t well regulated yet, it can be risky for truck drivers to use them.
CBD lotions may be a better option than CBD oil, but even these can’t guarantee no trace amounts of THC. For those truck drivers hoping for pain relief, they may want to look elsewhere. The benefits of CBD aren’t agreed upon, or even well documented. Truck drivers will have to decide whether the potential benefits exceed the risks.
DOT Issues Warning to Truckers About Using CBD Oil
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance has strongly cautioned truck drivers and other safety-sensitive employees subject to federal drug testing under 49 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) part 40 about the use of CBD oil and other “cannabidiol” products.
Even though a recently enacted law removed hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana itself remains a Schedule 1 drug and its use can trigger a positive drug test result, with disqualifying penalties to the user.
By the new law’s definition, hemp-derived products, such as CBD oil and associated products can legally contain a concentration of up to 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. The problem? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently certify the levels of THC in those products, despite what the product labels may claim. So, it is buyer beware! Above the 0.3% THC concentration, the product is legally marijuana, a Schedule I drug.
FDA has expressly stated “It is currently illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement.” In addition, under USDOT drug testing regulations, no use of marijuana is authorized. Therefore, if a drug test confirms the presence of marijuana at the appropriate cut-off level, a claim that only CBD was used, that it was legally obtained and was needed for medical reasons will not stand.
The issue is not whether CBD may relieve pain, help sleep or any dietary or medical purpose. It is the THC concentration present in the product and reflected in the drug test. Again, buyer beware.
The USDOT notice makes it clear that federal drug tests are not out there looking for CBD. The tests are looking for marijuana and other Schedule 1 drugs. But caution is needed when considering whether to use CBD products.
Now may be a good time to refresh your memory about drug testing. PrePass has written extensively on the issue. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has just increased the random drug test rate, in part because of the spreading legalization of medical and recreational marijuana. So by random test rate, it is more likely a truck driver will be tested. The drug test procedures themselves may be expanded in the near future and as of January 6, 2020, all drug test results are reported to the FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, where avoiding scrutiny becomes more difficult.
The bottom line is that the USDOT advises using CBD may be taking a chance with one’s livelihood. Is it a chance worth taking?