Georgia workers want to know if they can get fired for legally using cannabis oil.

In Georgia, employees risk being penalized by their employers for their legal use of Cannabidiol (CBD) oil while performing their jobs. Employers wishing to maintain a drug-free workplace are concerned about employees performing their duties impaired if they use CBD oil, even when CBD oil contains low levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and has proven to be safer and more effective than opioids.

The lack of clear guidelines is frustrating workers. State law allows employees to use CBD oil, while other laws allow employers to fire workers for using it. Georgia lawmakers are looking to move the ball forward on harmonizing the employer’s goal of prohibiting working under the influence on the one hand with the patient’s goal of legally treating health conditions on the other.

Legislators will have to categorize CBD oil.

Did the CBD oil come from marijuana or hemp?

Both marijuana and hemp are plants that come from the “cannabis” family. The primary difference between the two plants is the level of THC present. Marijuana plants can have THC levels of up to 30%, whereas there is usually less than .3% of THC in hemp (you can’t get high from .3%).

After the Agricultural Act and Farm Bill in 2014 drew some attention to hemp, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 removed hemp from the controlled substance schedule so long as there was no more than .3% THC. Therefore, hemp derived CBD oil is legal; but under federal law, CBD oil derived from marijuana is illegal. The legality of marijuana derived CBD oil at the state level depends on how individual states treat marijuana.

But what if we remove the THC from marijuana derived CBD oil?

18 states, including Georgia, are in the process of passing legislation to specifically address this issue and resolve the relationship between THC threshold and CBD oil categorization.

Georgia should have clearer answers after the 2019 legislative session.

Currently, Georgia allows for the use of low-THC CBD oil, but the lack of clarity requires forward-thinking legislation to satisfy employers concerned about impaired workers while protecting patients who are following state law while performing their jobs.

Back in March, 2016, House Bill 722 was introduced to allow Georgia manufacturers to grow and cultivate medical marijuana in-state under strict controls. While this early legislation left pro-cannabis legislators wanting more, it allowed for the limited use of CBD oil to treat severe illnesses. By the conclusion of the 2017 legislative session, SB 16 and HB 65 broadened the conditions eligible for treatment from low THC CBD oil (including PTSD, intractable pain, and Alzheimer’s).

Earlier this year, a resolution was passed to study industrial hemp production. This optimistically signals that much needed clarity should result from the upcoming legislative session in 2019.