WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A healthcare system in southeastern North Carolina is warning its employees that using cannabidiol (CBD) products could cause their drug tests to come back positive for compounds from marijuana, resulting in disciplinary action up to getting fired from their job.
In an internal note sent in late February, New Hanover Regional Medical Center advised its roughly 7,000 employees that some CBD products could contain enough tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the chemical in marijuana that makes users feel high — to trigger a positive result in the required drug testing.
“NHRMC considers THC found on a drug test as a positive result for an illegal substance. A positive urine drug test will subject you to Progressive Discipline Process, up to and including, termination of employment,” the note reads.
CBD products are in legal limbo in North Carolina. CBD oil is legal but is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That means there is no official regulatory agency that tests CBD oil to make sure what’s inside matches the label.
While CBD hype has exploded recently, scientific research is still relatively limited but studies show promising results for a variety of conditions, including anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, and chronic pain.
Researchers in 2017 tested 84 CBD products purchased online, including oils, tinctures and vaporization liquid. They found about one in five CBD products also contained THC even though they were not labeled as containing the compound.
“Promoters often claim that the product is THC-free and its use will not show up on a drug test,” the NHRMC message reads. “Because CBD products are not FDA regulated, there is no guarantee what you are buying is THC-free. It may have various levels of THC depending on how it is produced, where it is manufactured and the potency/formulation of the product.”
Hemp, which is made into CBD oil, is only allowed to contain up to 0.3 percent THC under North Carolina law. If it contains more, the cannabis is considered to be illegal.
NHRMC employees are tested before they are hired, and also randomly screened, according to NHRMC Media Relations Coordinator Julian March.
“THC can be present in products advertised as CBD products, which are not regulated by the FDA. The presence of THC in urine would trigger a positive result on a drug test. Testing will not determine if THC is from CBD or marijuana use," March wrote to WECT about the NHRMC note. “We have advised employees that using CBD products could put them at risk for a positive drug test result.”
The hospital system uses an “outside, federally-approved drug testing lab for all urine drug tests. Lab testing methods specifically target THC metabolites,” according to the internal note. “If an initial screening is positive for THC metabolites, secondary testing will be performed to confirm that result.”
THC metabolites are chemicals created in the body when THC is broken down.
Novant Medical Director Dr. Charles Bregier told WBTV using CBD products will not likely cause a user to fail a drug test.
Wilmington woman using CBD passes drug test
Devyn Livingston, 25, does not work for NHRMC but said she passed a required, pre-employment drug screening for a job application while taking CBD.
Livingston lives with medical conditions that required her to undergo a kidney transplant in January. She said two doses daily of CBD oil help her with mental and physical health conditions.
“I actually got introduced by someone at dialysis. They said, ‘Have you every heard of CBD?’” said Livingston. “One day I woke up and I was like, ‘I’m going to try it. What is it going to hurt?’”
After consulting with her doctors, Livingston said she began taking CBD oil and experienced benefits including reduced anxiety, increased sense of calm, and better sleep.
“I started taking it and about three, maybe four, days into it, I was like, ‘Wow, like, I don’t want to rip someone’s head off. I can actually sit and feel halfway normal, not so anxious, not wanting to be in bed or on the couch all day,’” said Livingston.
She uses the HempWorx brand CBD oil, which is labeled as containing no THC.
Nevertheless, she was worried a required drug test to begin a job at the Hampton Inn might return a positive result for THC.
“The one thing I was worried about was taking a drug test," said Livingston. “At first, I was still like, ‘What if I don’t pass?’ because I didn’t know. I had heard testimonies where they’ve passed but I thought to myself, ‘I’m Devyn, I could not pass,’ and I passed, flying colors."
Livingston said her saliva drug test came back negative for THC, allowing her to begin work at the Hampton Inn.
“If you’re worried about taking the drug test, I would not be worried. First-hand experience, I’ve passed it, flying colors," Livingston said. "It’s worked for me.”
Livingston also sells HempWorx-brand CBD products.
Cody Neltner, owner of Your CBD Store in Wilmington, said consumers should be aware that different qualities and types of CBD oil exist.
“We sell three main different types," Neltner said. "We sell full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate. Our most popular is our full-spectrum, which does have the THC in it, and that’s what the full spectrum means is it’s from the full plant.”
He said the isolate and broad-spectrum are not labeled as containing THC. Your CBD Store sells its own brand grown in Colorado and processed in Florida.
“If they have any sort of concern at all with it showing up on a drug test, go with the zero percent," Neltner said. “Zero percent will not show up on a drug test, and even a 0.3 percent is a slim chance but just to give them that feel good feeling that it’s not going to show up, go with the zero percent.”