DOT Issues Reminder on Drug and Alcohol Policy Compliance

Safety-sensitive employees should exercise caution when considering CBD use, the agency says.

February 20, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a reminder for businesses that employ workers in “safety-sensitive” positions like truck drivers and pilots of federal policies on alcohol and drug use amid questions about CBD use.

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) removed hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. Hemp-derived products containing a concentration of up to 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of marijuana, are not controlled substances. Any product, including “cannabidiol” (CBD) products, with a concentration of more than 0.3% THC remains classified as marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

DOT said it has received inquiries about whether DOT-regulated safety-sensitive employees can use CBD products. Safety-sensitive employees who are subject to drug testing specified under 49 CFR part 40 include pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, transit vehicle operators, aircraft maintenance personnel, fire-armed transit security personnel, ship captains and pipeline emergency response personnel, among others. 

DOT wants all employers and safety-sensitive employees to know:

1.   The Department of Transportation requires testing for marijuana, but not CBD.

2.   The labeling of many CBD products may be misleading because the products could contain higher levels of THC than what the product label states. 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 cautioned the public that consumers should beware of purchasing and using any [CBD] products. The FDA has stated, “It is currently illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement.” The FDA also has issued several warning letters to companies because their products contained more CBD than indicated on the product label.

3.   The Department of Transportation’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation, Part 40, does not authorize the use of Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, for any reason. CBD use is not a legitimate medical explanation for a laboratory-confirmed marijuana positive result. Therefore, Medical Review Officers will verify a drug test as positive, even if an employee claims they only used a CBD product. 

It remains unacceptable for any safety-sensitive employee subject to DOT drug testing regulations to use marijuana. Since the use of CBD products could lead to a positive drug test result, DOT-regulated safety-sensitive employees should exercise caution when considering whether to use CBD products.