Caveat emptor – “let the buyer beware” should adopt an additional warning: let the CBD user beware.
The New York Times ran a story on Oct. 15, 2019 in which an unsuspecting father who had been giving his 2-year-old son minute amounts of hemp-derived CBD (cannabidiol) with honey nearly lost his parental visitation rights because a drug test had found THC in the little boy’s system.
Mark Pennington, desperate he might lose custody of his son, was mortified.
“My jaw hit the floor. I just knew from the bottom of my heart I hadn’t gotten any THC in my son’s system,” said Pennington, a resident of Colorado where he and his girlfriend share custody of their son.
Hemp cultivation in Colorado has been legal since 2014. Now, as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill, it is legal throughout the rest of the country.
With the passage of the Farm Bill, CBD essentially became legal as well.
As we know, hemp is cannabis that contains less than 0.3 percent THC, which begs a question: why would such a small amount come back positive for THC in a drug test?
What does this mean for the thousands, perhaps millions, of people using CBD in its myriad forms, for medicinal purposes?
Science to the rescue
Pennington was referred to a scientific consultant to the cannabis industry, Frank Conrad, who directed him to a little-known study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology.
The study showed that a common forensic drug testing method could easily mistake the presence of CBD for THC.
The stated purpose of the research, published in January 2012, was to “demonstrate the unsuitability of derivatization with TFAA-HFIP for the analysis of THC and CBD.”
Two chemists with Cascade Chemistry, a private chemical-research company in Eugene, Oregon, independently reviewed the study for the New York Times and confirmed the validity of the potential drug testing problem.
These results beg a couple more questions: Why are drug-testing labs using the faulty test? Isn’t it time to develop a test that works properly?
This is not the first time.
Conrad, who is also chief technology officer and lab director at Colorado Green Lab, has been an expert witness in other similar cases. One, in Florida, a couple was charged with possession after a CBD-infused gummy bear tested positive for THC. Another client was arrested for violating his parole after testing positive for THC, when he claimed he had only used CBD.
In every court case where Mr. Conrad has testified and explained the problem with the faulty drug testing method, prosecutors have dropped the charges.
Thankfully, things worked out for Mark Pennington.
Pennington won back equal custody of his son. He plans to sue the lab that did the drug test, in order to raise awareness of the problematic testing method, which could ultimately ruin someone’s life.