The boom of the hemp market has opened new issues and has stimulated a legislative debate on the regulation of products containing CBD.
Cannabidiol contained in products like hemp oil, does not have psychotropic effects. Many people, however, continue to wonder if also those who consumed medical cannabis extracts or oil extracted from hemp seeds could result positive in anti-drug tests, among which the tests carried out at the workplace.
Many uncertainties remain, in fact, regarding the related laws and regarding how the traces of other cannabinoids like THC, could give a positive result when, in reality, one has exclusively consumed hemp oil containing CBD. The growth of interest in the world of hemp gave the green light to a debate on which should be the total of legislative factors to be taken into consideration.
Cannabis Spreading in Italy and Narcotics Law
In half a decade, in Italy, the agricultural hemp cultivated lands increased by ten times. According to the data supplied by Coldiretti (t/n. Italian confederation of farmers), in 2013, on the Italian territory, there were only 400 hectares of hemp cultivations, while in 2018 there already were 4.000 hectares.
What has been improperly called “cannabis light” has given the green light to a market in clear expansion, which has generated a myriad of products and innovative ideas.
Hemp, in fact, is reaffirming its role as a “multi-use plant”, being utilised not only for our wellbeing and our health, but also for the production of foods, cosmetics, and even for building elements. The credit for this take-off has to go also to the contents of Law, no. 242 of December 2, 2016, entitled “Provisions for the promotion of the cultivation and the agri-food chain of hemp” which entered into force January 14, 2017.
The Law provides that an authorisation is not necessary for sowing those types of hemp (indicated in a specific list) which have a THC content inferior to 0,2%. Furthermore, the percentage of the active principle THC in the plants, in case of control and analysis, can be considered inside a sort of “safe harbour threshold” which ranges between 0,2% and 0,6% of the active principle.
However, Law no.242 does not regard the cannabis legislation directly, and certainly does not allow its use for recreational purposes, but is a law addressed to farmers and producers, with the objective to promote the cultivation of industrial hemp.
The authorities do not only refer to this law when they have to proceed with inspections but also to Decree no. 309 of the President of the Republic, dated October 9, 1990, “Only text on the discipline of narcotics”. The THC limit remains 0,2. The threshold of 0,6 is necessary to safeguard the farmer, for whom it is impossible to control the variability of the cultivation.
Today, 5 to 6 million people in Italy use cannabis regularly, according to the data obtained from the Annual Report of 2017 to the Parliament, presented by the Department of anti-drug policies. If one looks at the data prior to 2017, one can notice a growth in the consumption of cannabis among Italians, the 2015 Report, mentioning data from 2011, talks about a certified number of consumers of 5.5 million.
These are numbers hiding the necessity to bring clarity on the laws regulating also the personal use of products containing cannabis, at the soonest.
How does the drug test work: when is it carried out, which cannabinoids does it look for, the false-positive results
This legislative uncertainty has generated many doubts also regarding anti-drug tests for the identification of possible narcotic substances in urine specimens. This regards a very common practice in many workplaces. Usually the tests involve the analysis of a urine specimen and, among the many narcotic substances traced, there also is THC. Of this active principle, the test identifies the presence of its metabolite, 11-nor-delta-9-carbossi-THC (THC-COOH).
This means that cannabidiol (CBD) is not part of the elements of interest of the test. On the other hand, CBD is being removed gradually from whichever list of narcotic substances due to scientific evidence testifying how it does not have any psychotropic effect.
However, some products containing cannabis can contain up to 0,2% of THC and the consumption in large quantity could imply that false positives emerge during the drug test.
Many states of the European Union are in the phase of releasing clear regulations on the topic of anti-drug tests at work and on the safety of the use of products containing CBD.
In Italy Article 125 of Decree 309/90 prescribes that some categories of workers, occupying "positions which constitute a threat to security and to the physical safety and health of third parties”, should undergo preventive and regular checks on drug addiction at the employer’s cost.
In case of a positive outcome of the anti-drug test, the employer must remove the worker from the position involving a threat for the safety and the physical integrity and health of third parties.
The questions are always the same: for how long can CBD be traced in the human body? Is it true that it is traceable for 90 days in a lock of hair?
Taking the current laws and the extreme variability of each person’s organism into account, at the moment there can’t be but one answer.
In itself, the presence of CBD is not considered in the tests, but, with a frequent use of non-certified products and with not well-defined quantities of the active principles, the risk is that of getting a false-positive result in the first phase of the test.
In this case the procedure provides for additional tests in order to search for the main metabolites of THC (THC-COOH and 11-OH THC).
Differences between THC and CBD
Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two most abundant cannabinoids to be found in nature in the hemp plant. They are scientifically defined as phytocannabinoids.
Both, CBD and THC, have an influence on some of the braincells and in some cases on cells of other organs. These two cannabinoids are very similar at molecular level and scientific research has been able to distinguish them only a few years ago.
Despite of the molecular similarities (both are constituted by 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms) the chemical properties of CBD and THC are very different.
THC, in fact, has psychotropic effects which has it included in the group of narcotics, while CBD is being increasingly considered safe. THC stimulates the CB1 receptor of cannabinoids, and generates psychotropic effects.
CBD on the other hand alters the form of the CB1, reason for which it generally does not produce psychoactive effects. This absence of psychotropic effects has brought many people to consider CBD more secure than THC.
In conclusion: always choose certified and quality products!
Today, in our country, the laws have not yet been defined, in view of the “novelty” of the subject.
At the moment it is possible to state that for consumers of CBD products the mere positivity to the test should not be considered an indication of guilt.
Important is to always and only consume certified products coming from a production chain which is controlled in each of its phases, and to follow the increasingly interesting and promising evolution of scientific research on the active principles of the hemp plant.