CBD oil is increasing in use and availability. Employers and companies need to respond to employees’ use of CBD oil with relevant and clearly communicated guidelines.

Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is derived from hemp and is a concentrated form of one of the chemical components of marijuana. CBD is increasingly used for a variety of health reasons, including mental health and muscle relief. According to initial findings by the World Health Organization, CBD oil does not present a risk for addiction or have any hallucinogenic properties.

As CBD oil becomes increasingly popular and available, employers will need to address the use of CBD in the workplace. CBD oil is legal but is available for use within specified standards, which vary by state. The health benefits of CBD oil emerged during testing as a treatment option for childhood syndromes like epilepsy and Dravet syndrome. Numerous research bodies are currently testing CBD oil’s usefulness for treating chronic pain.

Because CBD is legal in all 50 states but not regulated, there is controversy over whether it should be allowed in the workplace. Now that hemp-derived CBD is legal in every state, it’s not clear how CBD use will impact the workplace. Before the Farm Bill, under federal law, employers could terminate employees for positive drug screens based on the drug’s classification.

Employees who use CBD oil in the workplace, or have it present on their skin or in their body during work, can present a challenge to a company’s drug policies. Many employers question how to determine if a positive drug screen is the result of lawful CBD use or CBD use in tandem with marijuana use. Given the many uncertainties involved in drug testing, employers should refrain from advising applicants or employees regarding the risk of CBD use and testing positive on a drug test.

Reasons for CBD Use in the Workplace

The first question most employers have will be: Is CBD oil legal in the workplace? Because CBD oil is legal but unregulated, employers cannot issue a blanket statement prohibiting its use. Because the use of CBD oil impacts drug testing, employers will need to seriously reconsider their policies and the personnel procedures that follow positive drug tests.

There are multiple, valid reasons that employees may use CBD oil at work. Some of the potential health benefits of CBD oil include:

  • Easing chronic pain associated with inflammation
  • Sleep treatment
  • Easing pain from arthritis
  • Easing neuropathic pain
  • Peace of mind and mental health support

Employees whose work involves repetitive movements and even office workers could be soothed by the application of CBD oil.

Will CBD Oil Impact Employee Productivity and Safety?

These benefits also come with side effects. Individuals who have used CBD sometimes report side effects like fatigue, nausea, dry mouth and mood changes. High quantities of CBD oil can cause impairment or drowsiness. In some workplaces, these side effects may negatively impact work performance. Employers will want to follow emerging research to understand the correlation between using CBD and productivity.

Because the concentration of CBD oil can drastically influence the severity of side effects, the amount an individual consumes is important to keep in mind. Unfortunately, due to improper labeling and lack of FDA regulation of CBD products in the U.S., it’s impossible to know what ingredients are in each formulation of CBD. This variability makes it difficult to know for certain if a specific brand of oil is safe for use in the workplace.

Handling CBD on Employee Drug Tests

The use of CBD oil can create a positive drug test. Navigating CBD on drug tests can be challenging and requires well-communicated policy adjustments by employers. Employers should update their drug-testing policies to ensure that they:

  • Have a justified cause for administering drug tests
  • Communicate policies to all employees in a timely and effective manner
  • Express the action that will be taken in the event of a positive drug test
  • Create or clarify policies regarding positive drug tests caused by CBD use

Medication policies should also be revisited in light of increased CBD use, including whether or not CBD use is allowed on company property or during work hours. Employers must be conscientious as they adjust policies and communicate standards for drug use, including CBD oil, in the workplace.

Megan Hull
Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more

Grinspoon, Peter. “Cannabidiol (CBD) what we know and what we don’t.” Harvard Health Publishing, August 24, 2018. Accessed July 21, 2019.

Hudak, John. “The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the[…]of CBD: An explainer.” Brookings Institute, December 14, 2018. Accessed July 21, 2019.

Hunter, Taylor L. “CBD Use in the Workplace: Resolving Stat[…]ederal Law Conflicts.” Barnes and Thornburg LLP, December 28, 2019. Accessed July 21, 2019.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-[…]uestions and Answers.” April 2, 2019. Accessed July 21, 2019.

World Health Organization. “Cannabidiol (CBD) Pre-Review report.” November 2017. Accessed July 21, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.