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Government jobs like law enforcement or military include routine drug testing and have zero tolerance for substance abuse. It’s understandable. The nation needs its men and women standing on the front line with a clear head. Recently, with the increase in America’s use of CBD, some law enforcement agencies are having to make some modifications to their candidate screening process.
With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD oil made from industrial hemp (oil containing 0.3 percent or less of THC) is now federally legal. Each state is handling the legalization of CBD products differently. This lack of consistency has been challenging for local law enforcement agencies, both from an internal and external point of view.
Externally, police departments are developing and using more sophisticated field tests to determine whether a substance is THC-based or CBD-based. Since the two substances are similar when it comes to how they look and smell, it is difficult for law enforcement to distinguish between the two. This testing is critical in states with more stringent cannabis laws.
The biggest hurdle for America’s law enforcement agencies is how to handle the use of CBD (and marijuana, where legal) by their officers and candidates. With the increased stresses of being a first responder, police officers are looking to reduce tension in any way they can find. This is why, according to policemag.com, 20 to 25 percent of law enforcement personnel are chemically dependent on alcohol or drugs.
Since CBD has no psychoactive properties, there is no fear of first responders who use the substance being impaired. The drug testing methods for employees is still being developed and perfected, in order to detect THC from illegal use of marijuana versus a trace amount of THC that could be found in legal CBD-based products.
Drug testing makes sense for current police officers, but what about new candidates? With legalization, more and more American citizens are learning about the benefits of using CBD. As more people try it, the potential candidate pool for certain government jobs decreases. Relaxing the standards allows for a larger pool of potential employees, ensuring more quality candidates applying for the job.
Though CBD is not a controlled substance, it was used in the past as a screening question for potential police officers. According to Savannah State University research, 25 percent of surveyed police departments have changed their entrance criteria regarding prior drug use due to the shift in local and federal laws.
On June 19, 2019, the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (AZPOST) changed their position on screening aspiring law enforcement personnel. They released a statement stating that the board “does not view the use or possession of over-the-counter CBD based products as constituting the illegal use or possession of marijuana, a dangerous drug, or a narcotic drug.”
This change for candidates in Arizona came as local law enforcement agencies across the state had begun reporting to the board that a recurring theme for new applicants is the use of over-the-counter CBD oil. The previous standards for police officer employment were written in the ’90s before CBD was a topic of conversation. The new standards just added clarification and didn’t lower the qualifications in any way.
Similarly, in Utah, police candidates can now admit to having used medical marijuana or CBD. They must confirm a legitimate medicinal need and show how it was authorized under state law, but the recent changes allow the board to consider each candidate’s use on a case-by-case basis instead of rejecting them immediately. Previously, potential officers could not have used a cannabis product two years prior to their application date.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 800,000 police officers in the United States. Surveys have revealed that about 30 percent may be struggling with substance abuse issues. Police departments across the country have strict policies and programs in place to help law enforcement officers combat the statistics and be better prepared to uphold the thin blue line.
With the federal government changing its policies, CBD use may eventually become more common among officers. For today, it varies by department and by applicant, so candidates must check with their local standards before applying.