Rail career jeopardized with one gummy bear

Published: April 25, 2018

Last updated on July 18th, 2018

A man’s rail career was jeopardized after eating a gummy bear, and SMART Transportation Division cautions members of the risks of a positive drug test after consuming “hemp products,” which are unregulated by the federal government and considered illegal by federal law.

Virginia State Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbs says a 28-year-old member experienced a positive Department of Transportation drug test after eating a candy containing the substance cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, which is a chemical derived from the marijuana plant.

CBD is legal in products in many states, including Virginia, and reportedly has medicinal properties such as relaxation, pain relief and anxiety reduction in users. Because of these properties and the adoption of medical marijuana laws in multiple states, hemp products containing CBD such as ingestible pills or tablets, candies, “vaping” fluid, topical ointments and oils have become more widely available.

“This is a major issue,” said Hobbs. “These products can cost members their jobs – you don’t know what you’re buying.”

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a statement in late April warning of the potential risk of using anything containing CBD, such as gummies or hemp oil.

Since CBD comes from the marijuana plant, federal law considers it an illegal Schedule I controlled substance, even though it may be for sale and legal to use in individual states. Because the federal government considers it illegal, products containing it are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and there is no oversight of these products.

As a result, users of hemp products run the risk of taking in the intoxicating component of marijuana called delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THC. Since there is no regulatory oversight, the label may claim the products have no THC content, but there is no guarantee that is the case, the FRA said.

“CBD products can, therefore, be definitely a ‘buyer beware’ concern in terms of product content and quality control,” the FRA stated. “In addition, CBD products may be innocently or purposefully sold with varying amounts of THC present, which will obviously not be listed as an ingredient.”

So the label might be wrong, saying that the product didn’t contain THC when it actually did, as was the case for the member, Hobbs said.

“It’s creative packaging,” he said. “We need to get a strong message out. Even though the packaging says, ‘no THC,’ there could be THC in there. There’s no oversight.”

Drug tests administered by the DOT target a byproduct called THCCOOH, which appears in a person’s urine after the use of a product containing THC. While a product containing pure CBD would not trigger a positive, a product with a mix of THC along with the CBD taken into the body could trigger a positive test.

“If THC is present in sufficient amounts, that could potentially be the source of a positive federal drug test,” the FRA said.

Even if a regulated employee says the source of a positive marijuana test is a hemp product, FRA says the test still will be verified by the Medical Review Officer (MRO) as a positive result.

That’s what happened to the father of two after just one gummy bear, Hobbs said.