Are you finding some important questions unanswered with the growing service and product offering of CBD products?

The safety of using CBD products is high on clients’ list of concerns — with the most important question posed to the practitioner being, “Will this show up on a drug test?”

There are areas of misunderstanding, curiosity and confusion surrounding CBD use, especially due to the marijuana branding over the last four decades and marijuana’s legal status. (For more information, read “The MT’s Guide to Marijuana and Massage.”)

Let’s dive into this issue so you know how to respond to clients’ questions.

A CBD Review

CBD, or cannabidiols, are a class of compounds from the cannabis plant called cannabinoids.

The cannabis plant contains more than 400 compounds, and 60 plus are cannabinoid and include terpenes similar to those in essential oils, like limonene, pinene, myrcene and linalool. The compound mix in cannabis products is dependent upon the extraction method used, which may be a supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) extract, a distillate or compound isolating technique.

The two important compounds to discuss, both cannabinoids, are cannabidiol and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Cannabidiol is the non-psychoactive compound desired for medical use, pain and inflammation. The compound associated with the intoxicating effect is THC.

A differentiation is made regarding the plant used for extraction. Hemp has 0.3% or less THC content, where marijuana has the psychoactive content of 15-45%. Both are from the botanical species Cannabis sativa.

The safety of CBD use is still being established. There are some individuals who may have such slight side-effects as digestive issues, tiredness, dizziness or changes in weight and appetite. These side-effects are documented for internal use of CBD. Topical application of CBD is not sensitizing and, except in rare cases, would not have the side-effects noted for internal use.

Safety and sensitivity in topical solution, due to the other ingredients in the formula, would then be determined as would any other topical sold or used.

Legal in the U.S?

CBD products are legal in all 50 states — or not. This is a grey area. When doing the research the overall consensus is that it is legal. Conditions arise when looking at state level laws or conditions. (Note: this article is not meant as legal advice; contact your regulating board or legal counsel in your geographic area to determine if use of CBD products is legal where you live.)

The difference between legal and illegal may be determined from the source of the CBD, meaning whether derived from marijuana or hemp.

The 2014 Farm Bill made hemp legal in all 50 states, and so making hemp-derived CBD legal in all 50 states. Still, some states do not fully embrace these federal laws. Again, it’s recommended that you check the legal status in your state before using CBD products or offering services.

Internationally. CBD laws vary and, like in the U.S, acquiring thorough guidelines on its use will be vitally important. (For more information, read “Marijuana & Massage: Are CBD Pain-Relief Products Caught up in New DEA Rule?”)

There is a legal limit of 0.3% on THC content within a CBD product. This is a very low, non-psychoactive level and why hemp, already low in THC, is an often-desired source of CBD. It should be noted that even the low-level THC content, as well as a mix of other cannabinoids, is thought to assist in CBD efficacy.

The product manufacturer should have documentation of content in the extracts used.

Drug Testing

Over the past decades, employers have been administering mandatory drug testing, especially in government, health care and transportation — trucking, bussing and airlines — industries. Until the recent influx of CBD products and services, this wasn’t an issue of concern to the massage or spa therapist.

There are four testing methods used; blood, hair, saliva and urine analysis.

Drug testing for marijuana use is determined by the appearance of THC metabolites, not CBD. With a 0.3% limit of THC in the extract, the question remains as to whether this amount, or less considering the extract is further diluted in the whole formula, can accumulate in the body or in other ways show up as THC metabolites in drug testing.

“Will I Fail My Drug Test?”

Failing a drug test after receiving a massage service involving a CBD topical product is not likely, according to most experts in research of topical CBD products. Consider:

• To fail a drug test, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration guideline has a detection limit for the presence of THC, distinguished as a specific metabolite of THC, as 50 ng/mL.

• One estimate puts the threat of failing from an internal, not topical, dose of 1,000 mg and legal THC limit of 0.3% or less, at 23%.

• Another source declared a 1,000-2,000 mg dose, orally, gives an 11-23% chance of drug test detection.

• Key factors, beyond dosage, are the amount of THC contained in the extract, accurate labeling, metabolism, body mass and delivery method. If the extract is hemp-derived, it’s been determined there is no chance of detection.

• A CBD isolate, a product either specifically extracted or filtered to contain only the cannabidiol compound, if not contaminated in any way with THC, has no detection in drug tests.

Topical Application and Skin Absorption

With topical application it is highly unlikely, and close to impossible, for an amount of THC to be absorbed and metabolized by the body and detected in a drug test. Of course, there are circumstances that could change this such as the use of penetration enhancers, transdermal patches, and a higher than legal limit of THC in the product.

Topical CBD products are used for pain, inflammation and skin conditioning where the cannabidiols function by way of receptors in the cutaneous layers of the skin. Penetration into the blood is not necessary for localized therapeutic effect. The skin is designed to keep things out, making it logical that studies using blood and urine sampling find no penetration of cannabinoids following application.

The Jury is Still Out

Although evidence shows it would be unlikely to fail a drug test from topical use of CBD products, unease will continue for those who are drug tested at work. If employment is dependent on a clean reading, it is reasonable to accept clients’ hesitation or resistance to CBD use or services.

Precautionary measures may suggest introducing the conversation and alerting guests to CBD use and drug-testing.

As the market for CBD products grow, potential changes in drug testing may follow. For now, this will remain a challenging situation for all affected by employee drug testing.

Jimm Harrison

Jimm Harrison is an internationally recognized essential oil and botanical skin care consultant, educator and author.  He has developed botanical skin care, custom essential oil formulations and scent branding for spas and the retail health care industry. He is the author of Aromatherapy: Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils for Skin and Health and Easy Essential Oil Chemistry. Hedeveloped and teaches the Essential Oil and Aromatherapy Certificate Program at Bastyr University School of Natural Medicine, Kenmore, Washington. His article for MASSAGE Magazine include “Best Application Methods for Essential Oils.”