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CBD Oils Bring HR Considerations

​Cannabidiol, or CBD, has a visibly growing presence in South Carolina. CBD shops in many cities now sell the product in a variety of forms. The relationship of the product to marijuana can be a source of confusion, and it can also create major human resources considerations.

As a chemical compound, CBD differs from tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the critical intoxicating compound found in marijuana. Both CBD and THC come from cannabis plants, but CBD does not produce the intoxicating effect of THC. CBD oils are advertised for such conditions as depression, anxiety and pain.

CBD products can contain trace amounts of THC, however. Because CBD is not regulated, there is no clear consensus on how much THC defines impairment. An employee can frequently use CBD oil in high concentrations and test positive for THC during a screening.

"City officials should start reviewing their existing drug and alcohol policies and educate managers and employees," Heather Ricard, director of the Municipal Association's Risk Management Services, said. "People have access to CBD products in South Carolina, and many of them do not realize they could test positive for marijuana during a pre-employment, post-accident or reasonable suspicion drug screening."

At a time when laws on marijuana are changing and labor markets are tight, some employers have removed marijuana testing from pre-employment screenings, or removed it for non-safety-sensitive positions altogether. Recently, the state of Nevada and New York City enacted laws making it illegal for employers to conduct pre-employment marijuana tests for non-safety-sensitive positions.

What should cities and towns do now?

  • Conduct an annual review of the city's existing drug and alcohol policy with administration and a labor attorney.
  • Review the city's drug testing panel. Know what drugs are included in the drug testing panel. If the city has commercial licensed drivers, the federal testing requirements could differ from the city's drug testing policy.
  • Make sure the drug testing vendor has a medical review officer in place. The role of the medical review officer is to review positive results and interact with the employee and city to confirm the results.
  • Identify what positions in the city are safety sensitive. These are positions with functions that could cause harm to the employee or the public. Review this list with a labor attorney, as public employers have stricter guidelines for drug testing compared to private employers.
  • Train managers, supervisors, and employees. Employees should clearly understand the drug testing policies and management should know what do if they suspect an employee is using drugs. Training should point out the physical and behavioral characteristics that may indicate impairment.
  • Provide access to an Employee Assistance Program for employees. EAP programs are designed to help employees and their families navigate critical situations that can help prevent drug and alcohol use. City officials can also refer employees who test positive to an EAP program for drug rehabilitation counseling.

During the 2019 annual risk assessment of the SC Municipal Insurance Trust, only 53% of members complied with requirements for SCMIT's drug and alcohol policy guideline.