CBD oil costs BT transit driver his job

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By Marty Gordon

The sale of CBD (Cannabidiol) oil is growing at a phenomenal rate with as many as a dozen stores selling the products here in the New River Valley. Early forecasts predict sales will nearly quadruple over the next four years from $535 million to more than $1.9 billion by 2022.

The product is found in cannabis plants such as marijuana and industrial hemp.

Bull and Bones restaurant in Christiansburg is even infusing the oil into drinks and will use a CBD-barbecue sauce when requested by customers. Floyd Hemp Company is bottling the oil and has plans to sell it nationwide in states where the product is approved.

CBD’s popularity stems from claims that it helps relieve stress, reduces pain and inflammation, helps regulate sleep patterns, aids in relaxation and provides energy.  More and more people are using the product to deal with health ailments like arthritis and constant pain.

75-year-old Tom Bernard of Christiansburg was one of those individuals. He had dealt with nerve pain in his back and legs for a number of years until he tried CBD oil after recommendations from friends who had had success with it.

“I had been taking a lot of things like Aleve over and over for sciatic nerve pain, and people had recommended CBD oil,” Bernard said.

Bernard started putting a little under his tongue on a daily basis, and it seemed to help.

In the meantime, the retired Bernard applied for a job with Blacksburg Transit, and after a week of training, he was excited about the new opportunity. But like many other jobs, he had to take a drug test. What came back was a major surprise to him. He was told he failed the drug test and could not drive for BT. “I was told it was because of the level of THC. I had started using CBD oil,” Bernard said.
Bernard appealed the decision but was again told he was no longer employed as a transit driver.

In a letter obtained by this newspaper, Debra Swetnam with Blacksburg Transit said that the company received positive results from his pre-employment drug screen.

Bernard quit taking CBD oil when he received the letter.

BT Director Thomas Fox sent Bernard a follow-up letter saying: “Regardless of the source of the THC, this is a violation of the BT substance abuse policy.”

Bernard later applied for a similar job with New River Valley Community Services, but again was not hired. He has been mystified over the way he has been treated. “The only reason I started CBD was because I did not nor would use opioids,” he said.

As it turns out, depending on the source of the cannabis that is being used to produce the CBD oil, some products will contain traces of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is found in the cannabis plants. Both hemp and marijuana are listed as cannabis plants with the key being that hemp is nearly void of the THC, the component that gives the “high.”

According to research and a preliminary study, CBD oil should not cause individuals to fail a drug if the oil is pure. Bernard said the oil that he was taking had a .202 percent concentration of THC. Under Federal regulations, CBD oil is legal if it is .3 percent or less of THC.

Bernard is now playing the role of a “public” information officer in telling others about his experience.

“People need to realize the chance they are taking. While it might be safe and legal here in Virginia, it might violate federal law especially when it comes to transit jobs like the ones I applied for,” he said. “I am no longer fighting the decision and have come to the realization that by using the oil, I failed the test.” He said the health benefits outweighs what he had been experiencing with the constant pain.

“Now, I just want people to understand despite the fact the oil is being sold, you might fail a drug test at your workplace,” Bernard said.

Some health officials are also warning that people must closely read the label before purchasing a particular CBD oil. One study discovered almost 70 percent of the products sold online were not labeled properly, causing potential failure of drug testing. Also, the CBD industry is essentially unregulated with many of the products claiming to be THC-free. Several lawsuits are pending around the country as more and more people are failing drug tests after taking oil the label of which claims to be free of THC..

Bernard hopes that as the popularity of CBD oil continues to increase, Human Resource Directors will also examine their policies and how it affects employees.