Some people are getting in trouble due to returning a positive result in a drug test after taking cannabidiol or CBD.
Mark Pennington, a resident of Colorado, relayed to the New York Times how he almost lost the joint custody of his 2-year-old son after his ex-girlfriend took a hair follicle from the child and had it tested for drugs at a specific laboratory. The result showed positive for tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is the psychoactive component in marijuana.
Pennington worked at Colorado Hemp Honey, a company that sells raw honey infused with CBD. He stated that he was letting his son take the CBD honey, which is non-intoxicating, unlike THC, which is still mostly illegal.
CBD legality and confusion
Both CBD and THC are compounds found in Cannabis sativa L.; however, cannabidiol or CBD is legal provided that it is derived from the hemp variety of the said source plant. Last December, President Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill, which legalizes hemp and its derived products as long as it does not contain more than 0.3% of THC.
Frank Conrad, Colorado Green Lab chief technology officer, spoke with Pennington and showed a study detailing how common drug test methods can mistake CBD presence for THC. It explains how Pennington’s son might have gotten a false positive drug test result.
Two chemists from a private research company in Oregon, Cascade Chemistry, reviewed the study and confirmed to The Times that such drug testing problems might occur.
Pennington took Conrad as a witness and won equal custody of his son. He is now planning to sue the lab to bring awareness to problematic testing methods, which could affect many people since the CBD industry is booming.
Conrad said he worked on similar cases like Pennington’s; one client got arrested for a positive THC test after taking CBD, violating his parole. Another couple from Florida got charged with possession following a positive THC test result for their CBD-containing gummy bears.
Every case that Conrad testified on was dropped by prosecutors after he explained how there is a problem with the testing method itself.
Emerging drugs and opioids committee chair Bruce Houlihan of the American Society of Crime Lab Directors in Orange County expressed his worry regarding the drug testing method. He said that it is difficult to estimate how many labs mistakenly test CBD for THC since the methodology used is determined in-house.
It’s also a challenge to count how many people have lost jobs or parental rights due to positive THC test results. There is also the matter of drug driving, which does not distinguish between the type of drug they are caught to have taken.
In the states that legalize marijuana, it is still entirely lawful for employers, public housing authorities, child protection services, and other agencies to hold drug testing for THC.
The drug test method
The method in question for testing THC uses a typical chemical analysis instrument, the gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry (GC-MS) machine. Most devices undergo derivatization or the use of a chemical or sample to determine trace amounts of the illegal substance. One common agent used is the trifluoroacetic anhydride or TFAA.
In the published study introduced by Conrad, TFAA used in a GC-MS machine makes it difficult to distinguish between CBD and THC.
Other labs have upgraded their method to high-performance liquid chromatography, but GS-CS devices are still widely used.
Quest Diagnostics Senior Director Barry Sample said they are aware of the problem but insisted that their laboratory does not use the said methodology. However, a woman came forward after being fired last year for testing positive for THC using a urine sample.
The woman took a CBD product for a couple of weeks before the drug test. She stated that the product she took came from a reputable company and even had lab results for the product posted on their website.
More issues surrounding CBD
A false positive drug test is just one problem among the bunch that has happened since the cannabis industry saw significant growth in their market.
Since research for such compound was illegal, people are not informed about their chemistries. Rodger Voelker, an analytical chemist from Oregon, noted how regulatory agencies are reactionary and slow to take action.
For example, there is no standard measure for cannabis intoxication. The methods for testing show only whether a person used the illegal substance a few days prior.
As policies and laws change, testing methods have to be upgraded, which also requires substantial resources, says former American Society of Crime Lab Directors President Matthew Gamette.
He recalled an incident last January when Idaho troopers seized 7,000 lbs. of cannabis with the assumption that these were marijuana. The company that owned the crops sued the Idaho State Police for mistakenly taking the said plants, which were legal hemp.
Pennington believed that the lawsuit against the laboratory would help law enforcement and consumers understand cannabis laws so that no one else goes through what he did.
Is Charlotte’s Web in Trouble After Recent CBD Warning by FDA?
The cannabidiol industry is set towards an impressive expansion. According to a research firm forecast, CBD sales could reach $20B by 2024, almost tenfold from 2018’s sales of $1.8B. It could be attributed to upward trends in the industry, and as well as the great reception to CBD being a safe option compared to marijuana due to its low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. THC is the substance responsible for the high in weed.
However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning recently that stated how some CBD-based products could cause serious health problems. This statement might affect one of the leading CBD companies in the US, Charlotte’s Web Holdings.
CBD may not always be healthy
In a consumer update published by the FDA regarding CBD product use, the agency stressed that cannabidiol might be the cause for various health issues such as liver injury, change in mood, and alertness. CBD used with other depressants and alcohol may also cause drowsiness. The FDA added that the said side effects could happen even without the user noticing.
The agency also reiterated that the alleged therapeutic benefits of cannabidiol are mostly unproven, despite several sellers highlighting their products as having several health benefits such as anti-cancer and pain-relieving properties.
The FDA also reminded the public that there is still a lack of data as CBD’s effects on the body in the long term. It is something consumers should ponder about according to the agency.
Is Charlotte’s Web Affected?
Charlotte’s Web is one of the most well-known US-based cannabidiol companies in the country and abroad. It sells a variety of CBD-containing products such as capsules and oil. It claims the biggest US market share in the CBD industry, with its products selling at nearly 10,000 stores nationwide. Its strong retail presence aids in the expansion of the company’s market share. Can the FDA warning affect their numbers?
Most likely not, and Charlotte’s Web can still maintain its top market position. The FDA has sent out warning letters to companies selling CBD products with false promotional claims, but Charlotte’s Web was not included. In a conference call of Charlotte’s Web CEO Deanie Elsner regarding their third-quarter earnings, he specified that the company fully supports the FDA’s stance on unfounded claims and are working with their business partners to maintain the effort.
Elsner also mentioned that while the FDA has little issuance on regulations, Charlotte’s Web is ready to adapt as soon as new directives from the agency are released. He said that the company is currently progressing on its expansion plan, getting its infrastructure and capacity to catch up with its growth.
The company is rooting for the FDA to set a clear regulatory framework, especially for dietary supplements. Charlotte’s Web is positive that its product portfolio and distribution channels will expand as soon as it happens.
The CBD industry looks to persist despite the warnings, and the supply of products will unlikely dwindle. Charlotte’s Web and its growth will remain unaffected. For investors, it might be wise to keep in mind that the CBD legal landscape is still an unfinished course, so evaluating whether a company is worth purchasing shares from is important.
China Cashes in on Cannabis Boom Despite Being Illegal in the Country
Marijuana is a dangerous narcotic in China, and being caught possessing it incurs a grave offense. However, this does not hamper the booming production of cannabis products in the region.
China has been growing hemp for textile and alternative medicine for many centuries and remains to be one of the largest top producers in the world. The giant’s footing in the cannabis industry has given producers an edge in the booming CBD craze. CBD or cannabidiol is a derivative of the cannabis plant that is now infused in virtually anything, from pet products to skincare serums.
The heart of the production
Yunnan, a province in China’s southwestern region, is the first to make industrial cannabis legal. The farm plots in the area are filled with tall hemp fields that span miles. The plant’s flowers and leaves are harvested by hand during the fall, sun-dried, and then turned into export quality CBD oil and powder. Yang Liu, manager of some hemp fields in Qujing, Yunnan, said that the cannabis industry looks to bring great benefit to him and the farmers in the future.
China holds 11% of the $800M worldwide CBD market last year, trailing after the US and Europe.
The industry is still maturing, but manufacturers and other key players in the CBD market are investing in land to increase hemp production. It may have existed for thousands of years, but hemp growing wasn’t adequately regulated until recently, with the government now being intimately involved in the development of the CBD industry.
Henri Sant-Cassia, a CBD advocate representing Cannabis Fund who tours Asia to find new CBD enterprises, exclaimed that China is moving into the cannabidiol industry at the speed of light.
Farmers in the US are also upping their hemp cultivation to cope with the rising CBD demand. This cannabis derivative is said to relieve anxiety and pain without causing a high that marijuana gives. The Brightfield Group predicts the CBD market to grow to a $23.7B industry by 2023.
Despite the astounding numbers, China’s stance on marijuana is unlikely to bend. If anyone is found to be harboring tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-based products, they can be charged with a life sentence or worse, the death penalty. National Narcotics Control Commission deputy director Liu Yuejin said last April that China would strictly supervise industrial cannabis production amid its legalization in many countries.
Ingestible CBD is also regulated in China, which means that almost all hemp harvested and processed in China is sent overseas. It competes with other major hemp producers like Canada and the US for CBD market share.
CBD industry in China
The second province to legalize industrial cannabis farming is Heilongjiang, which is located along the Siberian border in the country’s northeastern area. Neighboring province Jilin is also poised to follow in their footsteps. Government officials are starting to encourage growers to consider hemp production, citing additional income and crop diversification as the benefits.
An influx of new companies entered China’s CBD industry recently, which Hanma Investment Group Co. Co-Founder Tan Xin believes will make it harder for newcomers to gain profit.
Since HMI started their cannabis venture in 2013, a kilo of CBD was valued at $50,000 when sold in the US, as stated by Tan Xin. In 2018, it fell to $6,000 and would most likely drop to $1,000 per kilo in 2020, according to him.
Nevertheless, Tan is positive that they can still cash in, provided that the price does not fall below the $300 mark since processing and labor cost less in China.
Untested CBD-infused Products Could Pose Health Risks as Market Grows Stronger
Cannabidiol products have recently spiked in sales and availability, granted by its popularity as an alternative cure to anxiety and pain. However, medical authorities warn about the potential health hazards of CBD and the many unproven therapeutic claims of the said substance.
Cronos, a Canadian company, recently bought a $300M CBD company, 7-Eleven stores now have CBD-dispensing robots, and HempAmericana Inc. started a live e-commerce portal to foster online CBD sales.
Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, director of the University of Wisconsin’s Doctor of Medicine-Master of Public Health Program, stated that cannabidiol might have numerous benefits, but most of these claims have not been tested for accuracy.
He cited the clinical trials of CBD for intractable seizures as the only benefit proven to be true. Intractable epilepsy is a kind of seizure that does not respond to therapy or any treatment. The CBD-containing drug, Epidiolex, is the only FDA-approved cannabidiol medication given for such cases.
Navsaria reiterated that several claims lack strong evidence for them to count.
Earlier this year, the FDA gave out warning letters to companies that sell new yet unapproved drugs that allegedly have CBD. Three of these firms are located in Florida.
CBD is widely available in stores and online, including big retailers like Walgreens.
Navsaria pointed out the lack of guarantee in terms of a product’s purity, and its active ingredients are what make it hard for medical practitioners to say yes to patients asking whether they can try CBD. It’s is the same dilemma they face for homeopathic remedies and herbal supplements, Navsaria added.
Research on CBD
Forbes revealed cases of people testing positive in urine drug tests from using CBD. This situation poses a risk for people whose jobs stipulate routine drug testing.
Natalie Schmitz, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy, studied the labeling accuracy for CBD products in her research. She stated that the literature related to CBD is limited and cannot support the claims of effectiveness.
She added that further research should be done to support all claims, including the benefits of CBD for pain and anxiety so that a conclusive statement can be made.
Some studies show how CBD can cause liver problems. There is also evidence of the substance causing several side effects like irritability, fatigue, and nausea.
Schmitz further stated that there is a need for FDA-approved guidelines for standardization and state-proposed quality measurements to help ensure that CBD products do not pose health hazards for the public.
Navsaria said that people should question products that are claiming to have several benefits without proper evidence. He cited profit motive as a drive for the proliferating CBD market. He believes that sellers are taking advantage of the trend to maximize sales, making it questionable whether these products are actually made to help people.
He further added that claims could easily be made, but there is little to no support over its factual value.
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