Excerpted from a Daily News Journal story by Mariah Timms
All Mai Hamric wanted was to apply for a promotion.
The Murfreesboro-native artist was employed by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department for more than two years until an unexpected test result led to her resignation.
“I felt very lucky to work in the arts, in arts administration,” Hamric said. “It’s important; I really enjoy being able to spread my love for art to others, teaching kids about art and doing community projects. I loved doing it with the city, where we could focus less on profit and were able to offer more affordable options to people, making art really accessible to as many people as possible.”
Hamric suffers from anxiety and said prescription medications had become too expensive and caused her to suffer side effects that were taking a toll on her life.
In search of an alternative, she researched and turned to products containing CBD, a substance derived from the hemp plant that is legal in Tennessee.
Even though CBD products are legal, Hamric learned the hard way that the trace amount of THC in the CBD capsules she was taking could show up on a drug screen.
The city, according to spokesperson Mike Browning, is a certified Tennessee Drug-Free Workplace, which comes with certain requirements for employees.
Under the regulations to be a Drug-Free Workplace, the city follows the U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines for drug and alcohol testing, including screening for marijuana.
“Under these DOT regulations, if an employee tests beyond the federally established limit for marijuana, it is deemed a failed drug test,” Browning said in an email. “If the use of the CBD oil causes the individual to test at or beyond the cut-off levels for marijuana established by the U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, it will be a failed drug test.”
Although even full-THC medical marijuana is legal in some states, the DOT regulations for that certification level do not include a medical marijuana exemption, Browning said.
“When an employee fails a test, they receive a call from a licensed and certified Medical Review Officer (MRO) who informs them on what drugs and ranges which they failed,” he explained in the email. “The employee has the opportunity to respond with an explanation of what prescriptions they are taking.”
At the U.S. Department of Energy facilities and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, employees found to be using CBD could be treated like users of heroin or LSD.
Federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. Though hemp-derived CBD oil has minimal amounts of the high-producing chemical THC, standard drug tests can’t tell the difference between hemp products and marijuana.
The policy applies to direct federal employees and contractors, a total of nearly 10,000 people, according to DOE and Y-12 representatives. The rationale stems from a 2015 Office of Personnel Management memo on “marijuana use” — which doesn’t directly address CBD oil — and before that to a presidential executive order dating from 1986, at the height of the War on Drugs.
Steven Wyatt, spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration Production Office, recently told USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee that using “CBD oil can result in a positive urine drug screen test.”
“A positive drug test can lead to suspension of a security clearance which restricts access to classified information and facilities,” Wyatt said, declining to provide the number of Y-12 employees that have been caught using CBD oil or the consequences they faced.
You can read the full story here.