CBD gummies are the new poppy seed muffins for Americans who face employment drug screenings, experts warn.
The growing popularity of the gummies as a treatment for sleeplessness is spurring warnings that the trace amounts of THC in the supplements can show up on a drug screen and cost a job. THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.
“Many people think CBD does not have THC. However, there are often trace amounts of THC in CBD products that can result in a positive drug test even when products are advertised to contain zero THC,” said Karl Minges, dean of the School of Health Sciences at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. “It is a common misnomer that CBD products are safe to use for those who need to take drug tests for employment or other reasons.”
Mr. Minges said gummy consumers with upcoming drug tests should buy at-home test kits before their screenings to see whether they detect any narcotics, including the opium extract in poppy seeds.
“If one tests positive following use of a CBD product, they should wait two to three weeks to allow their system to clear,” he said.
Hemp-derived CBD gummies are legal in the U.S. only if they contain less than 0.3% THC.
Many cannabis dispensaries sell CBD gummies as pain relievers and sleep aids. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved the products, so they may contain more THC than the labels claim.
CBD gummies have increasingly outsold marijuana brownies, cookies, chocolate and other edibles. They are the most popular choice of new cannabis consumers.
MJBizDaily, a cannabis industry website, reported last month that gummies accounted for $976 million in retail sales in 2021, a 31% increase over the previous year.
Gummies represented 70% of all marijuana edibles sales last year across six recreational cannabis markets that the Seattle-based data analytics firm Headset tracked: California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state.
Any Lab Test Now, a national franchise of local drug testing sites, warns consumers to be careful about joining the trend.
“We’re launching this campaign to educate edible fans that even the smallest THC gummy can make you ill because it’s too strong for you and the smallest CBD gummy with the slightest trace of THC can cause you to fail a drug test,” said Clarissa Bradstock, CEO of Any Lab Test Now. “Gummy buyers need to understand the risks that what looks like a cute and colorful candy can make you ill and derail your life.”
The company said in a press release that urine, blood, hair and oral tests have all detected trace amounts of THC from gummies during employment drug screenings.
A fingernail test can detect THC from a gummy consumed up to six months before a drug screening.
“Because CBD and THC share the same plant, minuscule amounts of THC can slip into CBD products and even though it’s not enough to make you high, it’s still enough to red flag a drug test,” Any Lab Test Now said in the statement.
Mr. Minges, the health school dean, said illness from CBD gummies is likely only while taking medication.
“It is well-tolerated, and any side effects that occur following CBD use are likely drug interactions between CBD and other medications,” Mr. Minges said. “THC products can have side effects, but CBD edibles may only have trace amounts of THC, so it is unlikely to cause illness.”
Gummies with THC contain the psychoactive compound delta-9, legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia.
Gummies with CBD contain the compound in cannabis that doesn’t cause a high but is marketed as a cure-all therapeutic for pain and anxiety. They are legal in all 50 states.
Gummy sales have grown over the past two years despite COVID-19 quarantines. More than a dozen states declared cannabis and medical marijuana dispensaries “essential businesses” that could stay open while other stores closed at the beginning of the pandemic.
Nevertheless, the FDA has issued several warnings to companies selling cannabidiol products as dietary supplements and mixing CBD with human and animal foods.
“The agency is committed to protecting the public health while also taking steps to improve the efficiency of regulatory pathways for the lawful marketing of appropriate cannabis and cannabis-derived products,” the FDA says on a webpage for regulating cannabis products, last updated in January 2021.
Michelle Minton, a senior fellow at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, said gummies are popular with consumers who want the reported benefits of cannabis without smoking marijuana.
“From a public health perspective, the trend in consumer demand toward noncombustible methods of cannabis use, like edibles and vaporizers, is desirable compared to the hazards associated with inhaling the byproducts of combustion,” Ms. Minton said.
For that reason, she said, government authorities need more explicit policies for regulating and labeling gummies as legal dietary supplements.
“In a legal market, federal and local authorities can help minimize the risks to cannabis consumers by barring harmful ingredients, verifying labeling accuracy and holding businesses accountable for the safety of their products,” Ms. Minton said.
• Sean Salai can be reached at email@example.com.
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