Pro-hemp group looking to see changes to workplace drug testing laws

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As the hemp industry continues to boom in Tennessee, advocates and lawmakers are calling for change to drug workplace testing laws.

The Tennessee Hemp Industries Association said now that hemp and CBD are legal on the federal level, they shouldn’t be subject to the same workplace regulations as marijuana.

The difference in marijuana and CBD lies in the amount of THC, the latter with trace amounts of the psychoactive ingredient.

“Taking someone’s job for taking CBD would be like taking someone’s job for taking Vitamin C,” said Joe Kirkpatrick, President of Tennessee Hemp Industries Association.

But Kirkpatrick said the state’s current workplace drug regulations don’t distinguish marijuana and CBD.

“The Tennessee Drug-Free Workplace is a good thing,” said Kirkpatrick. “But people taking a legal product that doesn’t get them high, shouldn’t be part of that dragnet.”

That’s why Kirkpatrick and Sen. Frank Niceley, who championed legalizing hemp farming in Tennessee, are working on a proposal to change the current pass or fail guidelines for the state’s Drug-Free Workplace Program.

Under the legislation, Tennessee’s legal threshold for marijuana would be changed to be more forgiving to employees, like possibly based on body mass index rather than an exact measurement.

In addition, employees who test positive for marijuana would be given the right to appeal.

In that appeal process, employees can prove CBD use is recommended by a doctor or re-test for THC levels.

“This is preventative in nature. There haven’t been a lot of cases,” said Kirkpatrick. “But CBD and hemp, in general, are going through a boom right now, and obviously as an advocate for the industry, we want all people to be able to take these products.”

Sen. Niceley is expected to file the bill in the coming weeks.

Barring any setbacks, the new law could be in effect at the end of this June.

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