WEST JORDAN — A Jordan School District bus driver said using over-the-counter CBD oil caused her to fail a drug test and lose her job.
Jeanette Hales failed the drug test despite using oil she said contains the legally permissible amount of less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC.
Hales has been driving school buses for 11 years, something she said she deeply enjoys and takes pride in. However, Hales also has a form of blood cancer and was taking the CBD oil as what she considered to be a natural alternative to stronger medications, leading her to fail a recent drug test.
“I have a blood cancer and I’m on a maintenance drug that costs $8,000 per month,” Hales said, citing the cost as one of the reasons why she recently turned to CBD oil.
The other reason was her husband recently retired from the military, losing what she describes as access to affordable health care. She thought the oil would also help handle the stress of making ends meet.
“I was looking for some relief for that,” Hales said.
As a school bus driver with the Jordan School District, Hales said she wanted to find something that wouldn’t impair her ability to safely get kids home.
“With driving a bus it’s actually legal to use a drug like Valium,” Hales said of district policies she claimed would technically permit her to use the powerful drug as long as she filed the proper documentation. However, instead of Valium, she started taking over-the-counter CBD oil 45 days ago.
“Everybody knows that Valium can cause you to drive impaired and I felt like I was making a responsible choice to use a herb that is safe and does not impair driving,” Hales said.
She said the brand she bought, Charlotte’s Web, contains the legally permissible amount of less than 0.3% THC.
“I chose a product that was 0.1%,” Hales said, pointing out that the label on the bottle doesn’t include THC as one of the ingredients.
Then, Hales said she was randomly picked to take a drug test on Dec. 5.
“I went and gave them a sample and then two days later, I get a report that I had failed,” Hales said.
Hales said she was put on administrative leave for five days but eventually, her managers told her they would have to let her go under the district’s policy. She said she was given the option to quit or be fired.
“They care, they tried,” Hales said. “The sad part is I’m the first person in my school district to get caught in this situation and they were unsure how to handle it. They believed that I wasn’t using marijuana.”
I felt like I was making a responsible choice to use a herb that is safe and does not impair driving.
“CBD oil will not impair, the trace amount of THC in there is not going to intoxicate you,” said Libertas Institute President Connor Boyack. “It’s not going to cause any problems. That’s why people are using it all over Utah right now without any problem.”
Boyack said he has heard of several instances similar to this case and it’s an issue that needs to be addressed with the state’s changing cannabis laws.
“This is an instance where one law has not kept up with another,” he said.
According to Boyack, those who consume legally permissible CBD oil with less than 0.3% THC still run the risk of failing a drug test that detects trace amounts of THC.
“The public doesn’t really know about it,” he said.
Boyack said those taking CBD oils over-the-counter are legally more vulnerable than those who consume medical marijuana.
In Hales’ case, Boyack said, “She could potentially qualify as a medical marijuana user and have THC in her system from that medical cannabis use. She’d fail the drug test but the law protects medical cannabis users.”
It’s an issue Boyack said he hopes to have addressed in the next legislative session.
“That’s the little loophole or grey area that we are going to try and fix,” Boyack said.
Meanwhile, Hales hopes her story will help others in her shoes.
“That’s why I called KSL,” she said. “I don’t want my fellow bus drivers to lose their jobs or anyone over CBD.”
Jordan School District spokesperson Sandra Riesgraf confirmed that Hales resigned and said the district could not provide more information on her case. Riesgraf added that the district follows all state and federal mandates when it comes to drug testing for their bus drivers.