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Strict, 'zero tolerance' company drug policies costing CBD users their jobs

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Elisa used CBD as a sleep aid. She tested positive for THC in a drug test required by her employer, and was fired. (Photo: KUTV)

Many people who take CBD oil swear by it. It helps some with sleeping, anxiety, and pain. But two different Utahns who take CBD tell 2News it led to them losing their jobs.

CBD oil is perfectly legal, both federally and in Utah, even though it can have trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC is the drug in marijuana that gets users high.

The two women who contacted 2News say they have never taken marijuana in their lives.

Mandi was in the final stages of a job interview. It was abruptly yanked away after a drug test showed she had THC in her system.

"I felt devastated,” she said, bursting into tears. “I've been looking for a job since May."

Mandi says her doctor recommended she try CBD to fight anxiety. Not only did it ramp down her anxiety, but it also eliminated migraine headaches that she’s suffered from her entire life.

“I'm like, ‘This stuff is great,’" she said.

Mandi says that since having the job offer rescinded, she has stopped taking CBD and her headaches and anxiety have returned.

Mandi says she took a product manufactured in Murray by Rocky Mountain Hemp. Get Gephardt went undercover into the store, paid $223 to purchase an identical bottle, and sent it to a lab to ensure it met legal requirements of containing less than 0.3% THC.

Sure enough, it tested below the legal limit.

Get Gephardt then returned to the store with co-owner Robert Sheen's knowledge and permission and told him about Mandi’s experience.

“We want this stuff to help people," Sheen said. “Generally, from what we've seen, you'll pass most drug tests, however, I won't say it's outside the realm of possibilities that you can fail."

Even though compliant CBD products only have trace amounts of THC, scientists have found those trace amounts can store in a person's fat cells. The THC can accumulate over time, which can lead to positive test results.

Sheen believes the problem isn't THC in people's systems, it's the rigid "zero tolerance" company policies. He said:

I think policies need to be updated to reflect what’s legal. I think that is a huge problem, not having updated policies for what we now know is the reality of things. We know that it's legal so why aren't company policies reflecting that?

Elisa agrees. She had been taking a different CBD oil from a different manufacturer as a sleeping aid. It helped, she said.

Elisa broke her foot after slipping at Corner Canyon High School, where she'd worked for five years. The school district made her take a drug test. She tested positive for THC and was fired.

“Even just going back to that moment, I'm still stunned,” she said.

“I've never done what I'm being accused of doing. You get fired from your job when you didn't do anything wrong."

Elisa says she has stopped taking CBD, even though it was improving her health, as she hunts for a new job.

Jeff Haney is the spokesman for Canyons School District. He defends Elisa's termination, saying district policy is clear: employees who test positive for illegal drug substances will be subject to employment termination.

Pressed repeatedly, Haney refused to say whether the district believes the strict policy is good or fair. He says the policy is set forth by the state board of education, and Canyons has not lobbied to amend it.

Since CBD is legal and scientists have proven it can lead to positive THC tests, can bosses get away with punishing employees for taking it?

Could one sue for their job back on the grounds that an employer’s policy is too rigid? Answers to those questions and more in a follow-up story that will air Tuesday on 2News at 10.