WASHINGTON (WJLA) – It’s sold as the solution to stress and insomnia. And promises pain relief without a prescription.
CBD may well be a miracle cure of the future but is presently a problem for consumers who don’t know what they’re getting into.
“I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. How could this happen to me?” said 72-year-old Lester Garbicz as he explained his reaction to a failed workplace drug test.
“I’m not a drug user, ya know,” said Garbicz, “I don’t use drugs. I was doing something I thought was perfectly legal, something that would not trip a positive THC test.”
What Garbicz didn’t know was that the CBD oil he had been taking for arthritis and glaucoma also contained THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that can register positive on drug tests.
Garbicz worked as an engineer for Specialty Tires and like many companies, it has a zero-tolerance drug policy. When his test came back positive, he was fired immediately.
“The employers are in a very difficult situation because they are facing contradictory laws,” said Peter Meyers.
Meyers is a law professor emeritus at George Washington University Law School and teaches advanced seminars on drugs and the law. He says even though marijuana is legal in many states, federal law looms large.
“Somebody can be fully complying with their state law and violating the federal law and employers are firing them for that reason,” said Meyers.
He says the wide availability of CBD gives consumers the impression it’s safe and legal.
“The federal regulators haven’t dealt very well with this,” said Meyers. “Certainly, more information on labeling would be desirable and would give people a much better warning of what risks they face.”
But when federal agencies are asked whose task it would be to push for clarity, answers are murky. “That’s one of the problems,” said Meyers. “Everybody’s passing the buck.”
The CBD industry is essentially unregulated. This means that ingredients can vary wildly and even products that advertise as THC-free, could contain it.
We were given access to the largest series of lab tests done on CBD products, by Ellipse Analytics, and found more than half of the 200 products tested were inaccurately labeled.
And lab results showed that a quarter of them – more than 50-products – falsely claimed they were “THC-free.”
“A lot of products make THC-free claims because they want to assure consumers that there’s nothing wrong with the product they’re making, that they’re not going to fail a drug test for taking it,” said Dr Sean Callan. Callan is a neuroscientist and Senior Vice President of Innovation and Operations for Ellipse Analytics. “We find that THC-free claims are false about a quarter of the time.”
While the levels of THC in the products aren’t enough to make a person high, they can be enough to cause one to fail a drug test.
Lester Garbicz wasn’t the only one to suffer that fate.
We found several pending lawsuits, including one filed by women in California and Pennsylvania, both of whom claim the CBD they were using – advertised as “THC free” – caused them to test positive on drug tests and lose their jobs.
“With this being marketed, and the FDA really not stepping-up to regulate it, the states and the industry not adopting voluntary guidelines to self-regulate, I think you’re talking about a mess which is going to be continuing for the foreseeable future,” said Meyers.
A mess that leaves consumers in the lurch. Meyers estimates that it will be years before state and federal laws are in synch and there is legal discernment between products like CBD with trace amounts of THC, and marijuana.
In the meantime, however, he says many, including the FDA, could make it easier on consumers.
“I think the FDA could initiate some sort of speedy rulemaking to adopt appropriate procedures for labeling and marketing. States could do that as well. Manufacturers could adopt, as many industries have done, voluntary guidelines,” said Meyers. “Many people could act and certainly, somebody should.”