City forces employee to resign over CBD use – Murfreesboro Post

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It seems every other store is selling CBD products lately. But while it is clear the product is more widely available, some areas like employment law remain murky as one former City of Murfreesboro employee learned to her sorrow.

Mai Hamric was a visual arts programming specialist for the city. She taught art classes at community centers and helped on projects like the mural on the greenway underpass on Broad Street. But she said the city forced her out in May after she failed a drug test the previous month while applying for a promotion.

Hamric said she began using CBD oil several weeks prior to the drug screening to treat her anxiety. She had panic attacks when making public presentations. She said she was not concerned about the drug test because several other city employees were using CBD for various issues, and they had all researched the product and believed the amount of THC was miniscule.

The city told her that a failed drug screen is just that, and the circumstances do not matter, she said. They gave her a choice to be fired or resign. She paid to have another portion of her test sample screened, and she failed again, so she resigned, she said.

City uses federal law

City spokesman Mike Browning said, “The City of Murfreesboro is a certified Tennessee Drug-Free Workplace under T.C.A. §50-9-101 et seq. of the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act of 1996 as amended. As a certified Drug-Free Workplace, the City’s testing procedures and protocols must comply with the United States Department of Transportation regulations for drug and alcohol testing. Under these DOT regulations, if an employee tests beyond the federally established limit for Marijuana, it is deemed a failed drug test. The required testing and drug cut-off levels for Marijuana are Initial, 50 ng/ml, and Confirmatory, 15 ng/ml [THCA]. If the use of the CBD oil causes the individual to test at or beyond the cut-off levels for Marijuana established by the U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, it will be a failed drug test. The U.S. Department of Transportation does not authorize a medical exception for Marijuana at this time.”

Indeed, while industrial hemp has found some room within the state’s law, there seems to still be some uncertainty in the application of the law when it comes to CBD, a non-hallucinogenic cannabinoid.

Legal confusion

Federal and state law have changed in the last few years to allow the use of “industrial hemp,” which is differentiated from marijuana, Dr. Elliot Altman, director, Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research and professor of biology at Middle Tennessee State University, said in June. He made the remarks around the time the state’s first industrial hemp dispensary opened in Murfreesboro.

States are getting on board following passage of a 2014 federal law, the Federal Farm Bill, that allows the use of industrial hemp containing less than 0.3 percent THC, Altman said. Any higher concentration means the product is considered to be marijuana. Forty-four states, including Tennessee, voted to allow hemp production and sales.

In February, local authorities arrested 21 people and padlocked 23 stores for selling products that allegedly contained marijuana-laced cannabis oil in a project called Operation Candy Crush. Charges were dropped and all criminal charges were dismissed with records expunged after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said they could not determine if the cannabis oil came from hemp or marijuana, the District Attorney General’s office said later.

Bringing awareness

Hamric said that the opening of industrial hemp and CBD stores has inspired her to speak out about her experience.

“The city told me they had never been in this situation,” she said.

She said she spoke to CBD advocates and drug testing companies who said this is a common problem. She wants to make sure people know about the drug testing issue so they are not surprised, and she said she hopes employers revise their policies to protect people who are taking a legal product, or at least warn people. The other city employees who were taking CBD stopped, she said.

For now, she is teaching private art lessons but hesitates to apply for a full-time job for now, she said, as she is unsure how to explain this to an employer. She is also doing freelance writing.


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